Site History and Archaeology

The first century historian, Josephus, provides an extensive description of Herodium; he was both personally familiar with the Herodian site, and brought extra information from other sources. He describes it thus:
“Having constructed monuments to his family members, Herod turned to his own commemoration […….] he built a breast-shaped mound at a distance of 60 ris from Jerusalem, and named it thus [Herodium], decorating it even more splendidly. The hill-top was surrounded by circular towers, within whose circumference he built a very lavish palace….” (Josephus, The Jewish Wars I 419-420, Ullman edition).
Herod established the site in the third decade BCE, as a monument to the events which took place there before his accession to the throne in 40 BCE, and as a personal burial-place and commemoration. There he built a massive complex of palaces (the largest in the Roman world of his time), which included an administrative center and a fortress.
After his death in 4 BCE, the site was part of his son Archilaus’ empire; Archilaus reigned for 10 years. Following this, the site was taken over by the Roman governors until the outbreak of the Great Revolt in 66 CE.
Josephus is the primary historical source for the history of the site during the Great Revolt, when he was resident in the area. During the revolt, the rebels barricaded themselves at Herodium until forced to surrender by the Romans in 71 CE.
During the Bar-Kokhba Revolt (132-135/6 CE) the hill-top fortress served as an important rebel base. Evidence as to the use of the site by Bar-Kokhba’s forces was uncovered both at the site and in documents recovered from the Muraba’at Caves in the Judean Desert.
During the Byzantine Era (4th -7th centuries CE), lower Herodium was rebuilt on top of the ruins of the Herodian structures at the foot of the hill, constituting a large village with three churches. A small monastery and a capella (prayer room) were built inside the ruins on the hilltop. The settlement on the lower site appears to have continued in use until the 9th cent CE. From that time on the site stood in ruins, until the beginning of archaeological excavations during the last century.


  • תולדות מחקר האתר
    History of Site Research


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  • האתר-המכלולים השונים
    Architectural Complexes


  • לדפדפת האתר
    Site Brochure