Herodion is without question one of the most fascinating structures from the ancient world. This fortress cum fortified castle outside of Bethlehem was built by King Herod between 22 and 15 B.C.E. The double wall surrounding Herodion is 63 meters in diameter and as high as a seven-story building. Earth was piled up around the walls to create an artificial hill. The structure contained Herod?s private castle, with open rooms, courtyards, and luxurious bathhouses.
At the foot of the hill, lush gardens were planted around a large swimming pool - all in a desert frontier, with sparse rainfall and not even one source of water! Spring water from the village of Artas (near Bethlehem) was brought to Herodion through an aqueduct. According to the historian Josephus Flavius, Herod wanted to be buried in Herodion, the place which bore his name.
During the period of the Great Revolt, the Zealots captured Herodion and used it as their base, but eventually surrendered without bloodshed. The Zealots built a synagogue on existing structures; remnants can still be seen today.
At the time of the Bar Kochva Revolt, the Jewish fighters dug a complex network of tunnels into the mountain and hid out there. The tunnels were dug in secret and were used as the base for guerilla warfare against the Roman enemy.
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