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Herodion National Park

Herodion, one of Herod the Great's most ambitious building projects, served the Judean King (37-4 BCE) as summer palace, fortress, monument, burial ground and district captial. Of all the sites built by the "builder king," Herodion is the only one that bears his name.

The immense Herodion complex, 15 kms. south of Jerusalem and about 5 kms SE of Bethlehem, near the ancient road to the Dead Sea, was built between 23 and 20 BCE. It was divided into two sections: Upper Herodion, which contained the palace set within a circular fortress on an artificial cone-shaped mountain; and Lower Herodion, at the base of the mountain, which consisted of numerous palace annexes for use by the kind's family & friends, and for the central offices of the district capital.

Upon his death, Herod bequethed Herodion to his son, Archelaus, who ruled from 4 BCE to 6 CE. When Archelaus was banished, Herodion passed into the hands of the Roman procurators, until it was taken from them by Jewish rebels at the outbreak of the great revolt against Rome in 66 CE. The Zealots, who build a synagogue and ritual baths on the site, held Herodion for 4 years, until they were defeated by the Romans. The site was abaondoned until 132 CE when it was once again occupied by Jewish rebels fighting in the Bar Kochba revolt. With the quelling of the rebellion in 135 CE, Herodion once again was abandoned, this time for several hundred years, until a large group of Byzantines_possibly a community of monks_took up residence among the ruins between the 5th and 7th centuries, and contributed 4 churches to the site. Herodion was abandoned yet again during the Arab conquest in the 7th century and remained deserted until recent decades when Bedouins settled in the area.

Herodion, described in great detail, by the ancient historian, Josephus Flavius, was of great interest to 18th and 19th century scholars. But it was not until 1962 that Upper Herodion was first excavated, and not until 1972 that excavations began in Lower Herodion. The Upper Herodion excavations were carried out btween 1962 and 1967 by Fr. Vigelio Corbo, under the auspices of the Franciscan Custodia di Terra Santa in Jerusalem. The excavations of Lower Herodion, conducted by Ehud Nezer for the Hebrew University, were begun in 1972 and continue through the present.

Recently a surprise assault system from the Bar Kochba period was found in Upper Herodion. It includes water cisterns, tunnels and hidden apertures fro sneak attacks--all witness to the great ingenuity of its builders.

The circular design of Upper Herodion -- a round building surround by round towers--was rare in ancient architecture. Lower Herodion was buildt around a large Roman-style garden surrounded by columns. At the center of the garden was a large pool (70 x 45 meters) used for swimming, boating and as a reservoir. Many of the palace annexes surrounded the garden. To the south of these annexesare the ruins of an additional annex, a large rectangular building that served as the main palace annex. At the foot of this builidng is a 350 meter path that archaeologists believe was built for Herod's funeral procession, as described by Josephus.

In 1967, the National Parks Authority took over Upper Herodion, excavated the site extensively and prepared it for visitors. (quoted from Israel Nature and Parks Authority brochure)
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P9261941_herodion tunnels bar koch.jpg
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P9261942_herodion stairs up cistern.jpg
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P9261947_herodion columns round wall.jpg
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P9261965_herodion hill close.jpg