Herod’s Masada Bathhouse

One of the highlights of a tour of Masada is entering the large bath house complex which was built to service King Herod and his entourage in. As you enter the outer courtyard of the bath house you can see a model of what it would have looked like. This helps to visualize the bath house which was an integral and vital part of Roman culture. The bath houses were not only for washing but also for relaxing, enjoying spa-type treatments and for socializing. Private bath houses were a luxury afforded only by the very wealthy, especially for those living on Masada in the middle of a desert where water was a rare and valuable commodity.

Herod's Masada BathhouseThe bathhouse is located south of the Northern Palace and has four rooms. On the floor of the outer courtyard is what remains of a mosaic made up of tiny tiles. The Romans would exercise in this courtyard before entering the bath house.


The first room in the bath house is the apoditerium or dressing room. Visitors can see the remains of frescoes on the walls and the tiled pattern on the floor. In the corner is a small square bath which may have been added later by the Jewish zealots.


The caldarium or hot room floor has been partially reconstructed so that visitors can get an idea of what it would have looked like. 200 short clay pillars beneath the caldarium floor created an open space beneath the floor. A furnace would pump hot air into the space beneath the floor where it would circulate and create heat. The heat rising from the floor produced a Turkish-bath effect, like a sauna. In addition the walls were lined with hollow clay piped which were pumped full of hot air. This method of heating is called hypocaust. When you exit the bath house you can see where the furnace would have stood to warm the waters and pump hot air through a hole in the bath house wall into the area beneath the Caldarium floor.

Herod's Masada Bathhouse


The tepid room stands between the hot and the cold rooms, light entered through clerestory or high windows above eye level. Slaves were on hand to scrub down the bathers with olive oil as the heat of the Caldarium had opened the bather’s pores and released the sweat dirt. Then the oil was scrapped off the skin (together with the dirt) using a scraper or strigil. In the Tepidarium Romans could relax and get a massage or even have their body hair removed by a slave!


Having opened their pores and cleaned off the dirt in the preceding rooms the Romans would finish off in the frigidarium where there was a pool of cold water. You can see stairs cut out of the stone leading into the sunken pool.


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