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Masada, Israel - an incredible story about triumph and tragedy

2019-07-31
Masada,Isreal,siege of Masada,unesco,dead sea,judean desert

Experienced Masada - an amazing archaeological site in Israel. Masada rises 300 meters above the desert. Got insight in a dramatic episode from old time and become totally shocked. Josephus described it in his account The Jewish War: the Judean rebels in the First Jewish Revolt made an epic last stand against the Tenth Roman Legion.

Photo. Magnificient view from the large hilltop of Masada, Israel. It was here The Siege of Masada happened, which was one of the final events in the First Jewish–Roman War, occurring from 73 to 74 BCE. Travel Explorations. 

My tour headed to southern Israel through the Judean Desert and past the Inn of the Good Samaritan and the sign that indicated the sea level. On my way I past Jericho and the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. I descended further down beneath sea level towards the iconic Dead Sea. My first stop was at the ancient wonder Masada, where the Jewish Zealots overcome by Romans. Here I took my time to explore the top of the hill where the remains of Herod’s 2,055 year old palace fortress was. I observed remarkable structures including palaces, a bathhouse, wharehouses, water channels, and got an incredible panaromic view. 

From the hilltop of Masada I observed clearly ruins of  some of the eight camps the Roman soldiers built surrounding the mountain citadel, and from which they organised the building of a ramp and the eventual attack on Masada.

Watch more photos on our Facebook page Travel Explorations

The ancient wonder Masada is located in Southern District, Israel. Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. Masada is an ancient stone fortress in Israel, located high above the Dead Sea on a tall, rocky hilltop. Now an Israeli national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the 840-acre complex holds well-preserved ruins attesting to the history of the ancient kingdom of Israel and the courage of its people in the face of a Roman siege. Masada is located in Israel on the edge of the Judean desert, between Ein Gedi and Sodom, on cliffs made up of chalk, dolomite and marl strata about 1,300 feet (300-400 meters) above the Dead Sea.

One of the most impressing construcitions was the sophisticated water system, which channeled water from the gate to cisterns that could hold more than 40,000 cubic meters of water. The runoff collected from a single day’s rain could allegedly sustain over 1,000 people for two to three years. 

The "Siege of Masada" is an incredible story that shocked me. With Jerusalem in ruins in 70 A.D., a legion of 8,000 Romans turned their attention to taking down Masada, the last community in Judea with 960 rebels, including many women and children. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by Roman troops at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the Sicarii rebels and their families who were hiding there. Read more of the story on History

The Siege of Masada, when Jews who escaped the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD retreated three years later to the stronghold on top of a remote desert mountain. The 400 meter high plateau was well supplied, as its use as a retreat had been anticipated. Nevertheless, the Romans were relentless.

The Roman legion, 8000 men, surrounded the mountain, built a rolling protective tower, and behind that tower began construction of a dirt and stone ramp across the valley and up to the gates of Masada. For months the defenders of Masada had to watch the persistent approach of the ramp, and the Romans.

Set on a high cliff and suroundend by a lunar-like landscape, this remote and ancient palace complex of Masada looks as dramatic as the stories behind it. But what really happened at Masada? And does the archaeological record support Josephus' account? Whas is really like that Romans reached and breached the gate, the 960 Jews in the citadel all committed suicide to avoid the crucifixions or slavery. Watch a video on YouTube setting a critical view on dramatic episod; The Siege of Masada: What Really Happened?

Stein Morten Lund, 17th July 2019

Additional information

Sources:
Masada-Desert Fortress Overlooking the Dead Sea. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Masada National Park. Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
What Is Masada? Newsweek.
Masada UNESCO.

In 2001, Masada was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Based on information from UNESCO, Masada is a rugged natural fortress, of majestic beauty, in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army, in 73 A.D. It was built as a palace complex, in the classic style of the early Roman Empire, by Herod the Great, King of Judaea, (reigned 37 – 4 B.C.). The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day.

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