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HERODIUM hi ro’di em (̔Ηρωδέιον). One of two fortress palaces built by Herod the Great as memorials to himself. One was on the Idumean frontier, the exact site of which is not known. The other was 7 1/2 miles S of Jerusalem. It was built on a mountain which was artificially heightened and had a conical shape. It was one of a chain of palace-fortresses Herod erected to protect his kingdom—some others being Alexandrium, Hyrcania, Masada, Machaerus, Caesarea, Jericho. In the year 40 b.c. Herod had defeated at this spot Parthians and Jews, and he built the citadel in memory of the great victory he achieved there. (Jos. War 1.13.8) It was begun about 24 b.c. and completed by 15 b.c.

According to Josephus, it was encompassed with circular towers, and 200 polished marble steps led to the summit, where rich royal apartments provided both for security and beauty. At the foot of the mountain were other palaces, buildings, pools, and terraces. An aqueduct brought an abundance of water, at a vast expense, from a great way off (Jos. Antiq. 15.9.4; War 1.21.10).

During the Rom. period it was the chief town of a toparchy (Jos. War 3.3.5) During the war with Rome Simon, a leader of a rebel Jewish band, sent Eleazar to request the surrender of Herodium, but the move was unsuccessful (Jos. War 4.9.5). It formed one of the last three refuges for the Jews, the other two being Machaerus and Masada. The Romans destroyed it in a.d. 72 (Jos. War 4.9.10).

In 1962 excavations at Herodium were begun by the Italian archeologist, Vergilio Corbo. These revealed that the site was inhabited again in the fifth century by some Christians. They also showed the damage that was done by the Rom. siege machines. Objects found were some Gr. and Heb. ostraca, arrow heads, plaster wall decorations, and a Rom. bath system. Dead Sea Scroll material reveal that Bar-Cochba used Herodium’s installations for collecting grain for his forces.

Herod’s tomb has as yet not been discovered at Herodium.


Josephus: Antiquities and The Wars of the Jews; C. F. Pfeiffer: The Biblical World (1966); E. Schürer: History of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ, I. Vol. 1, pp. 435, 436, 467.