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Herodium Aerial View of Herodium

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Asaf T. - Wikipedia - Public Domain


Transliterated Name Language Name
Herodium Latin
Herodeion Greek Ἡρώδειον
Herodium Hebrew הרודיון
Har Hordus Hebrew
Herodis Hebrew הרודיון
Herodium Name in documents from the time of Bar-Kokhba
Jabal al-Fureidis Arabic جبل فريديس
Herodion alternate spelling
Frank Mountain
Mountain of Little Paradise

Herodium is located about 5 km. SE of Bethlehem and was described in detail by Josephus. The fortress on the site was constructed by King Herod - likely between 24 and 15 BCE (Gideon Foerster in Stern et al, 1993).


Herodium lies about 12 km (7.5 mi.) south of Jerusalem as the crow flies (map reference 1731.1192). The fortress of Herodium is situated on a hill 758 m above sea level. Its position and appearance accord with the evidence provided by Josephus, who locates the fortress 60 stadia from Jerusalem and describes the hill, which is in the form of a truncated cone, as being shaped like a woman's breast (Antiq. XV, 324). The Arabic name of the hill, Jebel Fureidis, evidently preserves the name Herodis, as it was called in documents from the time of Bar-Kokhba. Excavations at the site have confirmed the identification of Jebel Fureidis with Herodium.


The main literary source for the history of Herodium are the writings of Josephus. The fortress is also mentioned by Pliny (NHV, 70) and in several documents from the time of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt. Herodium was built on the spot where Herod, when retreating from Jerusalem to Masada in flight from Matathias Antigonus and the Parthians in 40 BCE, achieved one of his most important victories over the Hasmoneans and their supporters (Antiq. XIV, 359-360; War I, 265).

Herodium appears to have been built after Herod's marriage to Mariamne, the daughter of Simeon the Priest of the House of Boethus. It was probably not constructed before 24 BCE, but it was prior to Marcus Agrippa's visit to Judea, which included Herodium, in 15 BCE (Antiq. XV, 323; XVI, 12-13). According to Josephus, Herodium was built to serve as a fortress and the capital of a toparchy, as well as a memorial to Herod (Antiq. XV, 324; War I, 419; III, 55). Josephus also gives a full description of Herod's funeral procession to his burial place at Herodium (War I, 670-673; Antiq. XVII, 196-199). During the First Jewish Revolt, Herodium was the scene of some of the internal strife among the Zealots (War IV, 518-520). It is listed together with Masada and Machaerus as one of the last three strongholds, in addition to Jerusalem, remaining in the hands of the rebels on the eve of the siege of Jerusalem (War IV, 555). Herodium was the first of these strongholds to be captured by the Romans after Jerusalem fell (War VII, 163). According to documents found at Wadi Murabba'at from the time of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, Simeon, Prince of Israel (Bar-Kokhba), had a command post at Herodis, where, among other things, land transactions were carried out and a treasury was kept - perhaps storehouses of grain.


In the fifteenth century, the Italian traveler F. Fabri gave the name Mountain of the Franks to Herodium, the place where, he assumed, the Crusaders made a stand after the Arab conquest of Jerusalem (P PTS X, 403). It retained this name until the nineteenth century. The first sketch of Herodium's plan was made by E. Pococke during a visit in 1743. E. Robinson, in 1838, gave a detailed description of its buildings, dating them to the Roman period and noting their resemblance to Josephus' description. In 1863, the French explorer and traveler F. de Saulcy recorded important site details and drew sketches and plans of the buildings at the foot of the hill, especially of the pool. In his opinion, the round structure in the pool was Herod's burial place. Several years later, V. Guerin accurately described the outer wall with its three semicircular towers and eastern round tower. Until the modern excavations, the fullest account of the remains was made in 1879 by C. Schick, with plans and cross sections. He noted that the lower part of Herodium was a natural hill and the upper part was artificial. Schick traced the staircase leading to the structure on the summit of the hill; his assumption that the steps led to the courtyard of the building through a tunnel-like passage dug in the artificial fill was later confirmed. His further assumption that cisterns had been dug in the lower part of the hill was also later verified. In addition, Schick was correct in his belief that the upper structure had been designed as a grandiose mausoleum and not merely a stronghold. In 1881, C. R. Conder and H. H. Kitchener prepared the first accurate plan of the site with the two circular walls, three semicircular towers, and a round eastern tower.

From 1962 to 1967, V. Corbo conducted four seasons of excavations at the site on behalf of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum. At that time, most of the main buildings on the summit from the Herodian period, the period of the two wars with Rome, and the Byzantine period were uncovered.

Preservation and restoration works were carried out in 1967 and 1970 by G. Foerster for the National Parks Authority. The entrance room to the palace was uncovered, as well as a complex network of cisterns and an elaborate system of tunnels dug in the hill that apparently dated to the time of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt.

Excavations were resumed in 1970 by an expedition headed by E. Netzer, on behalf of the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (see below).

The investigations at Herodium have, to a great extent, confirmed Josephus' detailed description of the place in the Herodian period (Antiq. XV, 324-325): "This fortress, which is some sixty stades distant from Jerusalem, is naturally strong and very suitable for such a structure, for reasonably nearby is a hill, raised to a (greater) height by the hand of man and rounded off in the shape of a breast. At intervals it has round towers, and it has a steep ascent formed of two hundred steps of hewn stone. Within it are costly royal apartments made for security and for ornament at the same time. At the base of the hill there are pleasure grounds built in such a way as to be worth seeing, among other things because of the way in which water, which is lacking in that place, is brought in from a distance and at great expense. The surrounding plain was built up as a city second to none, with the hill serving as an acropolis for the other dwellings."

Renewed Excavations

Three more excavation seasons were conducted at Lower Herodium between 1997 and 2000, by an expedition of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem under the direction of E. Netzer, with the assistance of Y. Kalman and R. Laureys-Chachy. The work concentrated in two areas: southwest of the pool complex; and in the vicinity of the monumental building at the western end of the “artificial course,” an elongated man-made platform north of the remains of the large palace.

Aerial Views, Plans, and Drawings
Aerial Views, Plans, and Drawings

Aerial Views

  • Annotated Aerial View of Herodium from
  • Herodium in Google Earth
  • Herodium on

Plans and Drawings

Normal Size

  • General plan of the site from Stern et al (1993)
  • Reconstruction of the site around 15 BCE from Langgut (2022)


  • General plan of the site from Stern et al (1993)
  • Reconstruction of the site around 15 BCE from Langgut (2022)

Earthquake in the 40s or 50s CE - speculative

Ahipaz et al (2017:126) interpreted numismatic evidence at Herodium to infer abandonment of the site in the 40's or 50's CE which they speculated might have been due to an earthquake.

Notes and Further Reading

Bibliography from Stern et al (1993 v. 2)

Main publication

E. Netzer, Greater Herodium (Qedem 13), Jerusalem 1981.

Other studies

E. Netzer, IEJ22 (1972), 247-249

id., RB 80 (1973), 419-421

id., MdB !7 (1981), 17-21; id., BAR 9/3 (1983), 30-51

14/4 (1988), 18-33

id., ESI5 (1986), 49-50

id., Christian Archaeology in the Holy Land (V. C. Corbo Fest.), Jerusalem 1990, 165-176

A. Rabinovitch, MdB 9 (1979), 51-53; C.Patrick, SRI Journal3j6 (1983), 2-3

D. Milson, LA 39 (1989), 207-211

L. Di Segni, V. C. Corbo Fest. (op. cit.), Jerusalem 1990, 177-190.

Bibliography from Stern et al (2008)

Main publication

S. Loffreda, La Ceramica di Macheronte e dell’Herodion: (90 a.C. –135 d.C.) (SBF Collectio Maior 39), Jerusalem 1996.


T. Braxmeier & P. Beckmann, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Evangelischen Instituts für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes 2 (1990), 79–82

M. T. Shoemaker, BAR 17/4 (1991), 58–60

A. Strobel, Jahrbuch des Deutschen Evangelischen Instituts für Altertumswissenschaft des Heiligen Landes 2 (1990), 73–78

3 (1991), 82–84

6 (1999), 109–115

J. Michel, Mélanges de l’Ecole Française de Rome, Antiquite 103 (1992), 735–783

E. Netzer, ABD, 3, New York 1992, 176–180

id., Ancient Churches Revealed (ed. Y. Tsafrir), Jerusalem 1993, 219–232

id., Judaea and the Greco-Roman World in the Time of Herod in the Light of Archaeological Evidence, Göttingen 1996, 27–54

id., Die Paläste der Hasmonäer und Herodes’ des Grossen (Antike Welt Sonderhefte

Zaberns Bildbände zur Archäologie), Mainz am Rhein 1999

id., Roman Baths and Bathing, 1: Bathing and Society (JRA Suppl. Series 37), Portsmouth, RI 1999, 45–55

id., One Land—Many Cultures, Jerusalem 2003, 277–285

id., The Architecture of Herod, the Great Builder, Tübingen (forthcoming)

J. Patrich, IEJ 42 (1992), 241–245 (Review)

G. Foerster, BA 56 (1993), 143–144; D. Amit, Cathedra 71 (1994), 198

id., LA 44 (1994), 561–578

id., The Aqueducts of Israel, Portsmouth, RI 2002, 253–266

H. Eshel, JSRS 4 (1994), 108–109, 112

J. Magness, Revue de Qumran 16/63 (1994), 397–419

id. (& E. E. Cook), BAR 22/6 (1996), 37–52

id., OEANE, 3, New York 1997, 18–19

I. Nielsen, Hellenistic Palaces: Tradition and Renewal (Studies in Hellenistic Civilization 5), Aarhus 1994

id., Roman Baths and Bathing, 1: Bathing and Society (op. cit.), Portsmouth, RI 1999, 35–43

A. Ovadiah, 5th International Colloquium on Ancient Mosaics, Bath, 5–12.9.1987 (JRA Suppl. Series 9

eds. P. Johnson et al.), Ann Arbor, MI 1994, 67–77

K. Fittschen, Judaea and the Greco-Roman World in the Time of Herod in the Light of Archaeological Evidence, Göttingen 1996, 139–161

R. Förtsch, ibid., 73–119

P. Richardson, Herod: King of the Jews and Friend of the Romans (Studies on Personalities of the New Testament), Columbia, SC 1996

id., Building Jewish in the Roman East (Suppls. to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 92), Waco, TX 2004, 253–269

A. Schmidt-Colinet, Basileia: Die Paläste der hellenistischen Könige. Internationales Symposium, Berlin, 16–20.12.1992 (Schriften des Seminars für klassische Archäologie der Freien Universität, Berlin

eds. W. Höpfner & G. Brands), Mainz am Rhein 1996, 250–251

Le opere fortificate de Erode il Grand, Firenze 1997

S. Verhelst, RB 104 (1997), 223–236

D. W. Roller, The Building Program of Herod the Great, Berkeley, CA 1998

A. Speransky-Marshak, IEJ 48 (1998), 190–193

D. M. Jacobson, BAIAS 17 (1999), 67–76

id., PEQ 134 (2002), 84–91

A. Lichtenberger, Die Baupolitik Herodes des Grossen (Abhandlungen des Deutschen Palästina-Vereins 26), Wiesbaden 1999

S. Santelli et al., Les Dossiers d’Archéologie 240 (1999), 78–80

E. M. Laperrousaz, Trois hauts lieux de Judee, Paris 2001

A. Mazar, The Aqueducts of Israel, Portsmouth, RI 2002, 211–244

G. D. Stiebel, One Land—Many Cultures, Jerusalem 2003, 215–244; L. B. Kavlie, NEAS Bulletin 49 (2004), 5–14

L. I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years, 2nd ed., New Haven, CT 2005, 63

A. Lewin, The Archaeology of Ancient Judea and Palestine, Los Angeles, CA 2005, 116–119.

Lower Herodium

E. Netzer (et al.), JSRS 9 (2000), xv–xvi

10 (2001), xviii–xix

id., BAIAS 19–20 (2001– 2002), 186–187

J. Magness, Hesed ve-Emet (E. S. Frerichs Fest.

eds. J. Magness & S. Gitin), Atlanta, GA 1998, 313–329

id., BASOR 322 (2001), 43–46

Y. Kalman, JSRS 10 (2001), xix–xx

S. Bonato-Baccari, Latomus 61 (2002), 67–87

N. Kokkinos, BAR 28/2 (2002), 28–35.

Wikipedia pages

Wikipedia page for Herodium

Wikipedia page for Herod the Great

Wikipedia page for Josephus