Approximately eight miles west of the Dead Sea, southeast of Bethlehem, there is a mountain which looks like a volcano called Herodium. On the top of the hill, there is a fortress palace which was built by Herod the Great. According to the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius, Herod named it for himself to show off his palace and to commemorate his victory over the battles of Hasmonean and Parthian enemies in 40 BCE (Antiquities XIV, 352-360). This was also a place to flee from the attacks of his enemies.
Herod built this palace on top of the hill with a panoramic view over the Dead Sea, the Judean Desert, and the hills of Moab. Besides his palace at the top of the hill, he also built several administrative buildings, a pool, a royal theater, and a Roman garden at the lower Herodium. His tomb was discovered at the northeast slope of his palace.
This is a view of the Herodium. This fortress-palace was surrounded by a defensive wall. Since the Herodium required a lot of water, his top-notch engineering team built an aqueduct to bring water from Solomon’s Pool near Bethlehem.
Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.
A panoramic view was taken from the top of the Herodium.
The rectangular structure at the left bottom of this photo is a pool. The round base in the center of the pool is a pavilion. With the surrounding reconstructed columns, we can imagine how magnificent this pool was in Herod’s time.
At the lower Herodium, round stones were discovered. They were used as weapons to roll down from the top against the invasion of enemies.
Photo was contributed by Dr. Rasmussen.
This is the interior garden of the Upper Herodium
An illustrated sign shows that this is a northern exedra (or meeting room) in Herod’s time. It had benches or seats for gathering and conversing.
Herod the Great liked the Greek culture. Classical Greek style Corinthian capitals were discovered in the Herodium.
Herod built the tunnel of the lower cisterns in the Herodium to bring water from Solomon’s Pool and to collect rainwater. This illustration explains that the tunnel was expanded by the rebels during two revolts (66-71 CE and 132-135/6 CE), for the purpose of bringing water up from the lower cisterns as well as serving as a base for attack.
The 300 meter long tunnels, cisterns and rock-cut spaces in the lower parts of the Herodium are open to exploration.
We are inside the Tunnel.
closer look cisterns
There are three large cisterns that were cut into the slope outside the fortress near the entrance. This is one of the cisterns in the tunnel. Water was drawn from these cisterns by servants who carried it to the cistern on the top of the hill. The fallen stones on the ground leds the deceased archeologist Ehud Netzer to discover Herod’s tomb. The far end of this cistern is the way to the outside where Herod’s Tomb is located.
The tomb's Outlook
How did King Herod die? Let’s see how did King Herod’s grandson (Herod Agrippal I) die first? He was eaten by worms based on the book of Acts in the New Covenant 12:20-23.
The Death of Herod:
“20 Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they came to him in a body; and after winning over Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for a reconciliation, because their country depended on the king’s country for food. 21 On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat on the platform, and delivered a public address to them. 22 The people kept shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a mortal!’ 23 And immediately, because he had not given the glory to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.”
A Closer Look at the tomb
How did King Herod die based on extra-biblical sources? Below is a more detailed description from Josephus.
According to The Jewish Antiquities 17.6.5 says, “But now Herod’s distemper greatly increased upon him, after a severe manner; and this by God’s judgment upon him for his sins. For a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly. For it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also exulcerated; and the chief violence of his pain lay in his colon. An aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet: and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay farther, his privy member was putrified, and produced worms. And when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns. He had also convulsions in all parts of his body: which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the King on account of his great impiety…….”
They both suffered by worms. Was it coincidence or they were cursed by God?