Monday, September 16, 2019

Israel Day 5: Masada - Part 1

Masada: Herod's desert fortress.

The fortress, originally created by the Hasmonean kings, was completely and impressively comprehensively redone and built by Herod in 37-31 BCE, so much so that original Hasmonean remains of the fort design have not been discovered by archeologists. Located on top of a mountain dominating the terrain in the south it was only accessible via a winding snake path and was indeed a formidable fortress. It was not just a fortress but also a palace, designed as a refuge for Herod should he be subject to a coup or being replaced by the Romans, and having to flee Jerusalem for a place of safety.

Masada's fame lies during the Jewish revolt against Rome when a band of Sicarii, took over the fortress from its Roman garrison and used it as a base for guerilla warfare in the south. Then, numbering about 900, they held off the Romans in their thousands, including notably the Tenth Legion for years, finally succumbing to a prolonged siege and Roman engineering skill. The Romans built an assault ramp up the western side of the mountain so they could bring a siege tower to bear on the walls. The Romans also created a siege wall circumnavigating the mountain.

The Romans breached the walls with the siege tower late one day, and planned to storm the fortress the next morning. The Jews, knowing the end was nigh, decided to commit suicide rather than be captured and enslaved by the Romans. The Jews drew lots as to who would do the killing and the last man killed himself. Only two women and five children were found alive after the siege ended in 74 CE, long after the rest of Judea had been conquered.

At the base of the mountain is a visitors center with a good historical overview and some of the artifacts found on Masada.

Cooking pots:

Stone ware:

Oil lamps:

Bronze coins from the Herodian period:

Slingshot and Ballista balls from the siege:

It was already very hot day, so even as it was 7am, they had closed the snake path to climbers and it was only open to those who descended after going up earlier in the morning.

So, tickets in hand:

We headed up on a cable car to the summit:


Old NFO said...

Amazing history!

MrGarabaldi said...

Hey Aaron;

Sweeet!!, that is definitely on my "bucket list". Love the pics and look forward to you adding to the story.

Chuck Pergiel said...

Thanks for the pictures of the Roman camps.