Mount Masada


Mount Masada situated in the southern Judean Desert of Israel is the site of an ancient fortress and palaces which were constructed on top of the flat mountain plateau. The mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has the best preserved remains of a Roman siege system atop the mountain which tells of a deeply significant part of Jewish history. It was here that the Jews took their last stand against the Romans in the Great Revolt of the 1st century and so it has become a symbol of the struggle against oppression and fight for freedom.

In c.30BC Herod the Great built fortified casemate walls and towers on the top of the already unscalable 400 meter high mount as a possible retreat for him if there was ever a revolt. He also added everything a small village would need, 29 storerooms, bedrooms, baths houses, palaces and 12 cisterns half way up the mountain which drained water from the adjacent wadi using a complicated water system. Against the Northern cliff face is the Northern Palace which appears to hang over the edge of the flat mountain top. It has three terraces and large rooms, colonnaded halls and grand rooms decorated with painted walls some of which we can still see today.

The first of three wars between the Romans and Jews broke out around 66AD and a group of Jewish rebels, Sicarii extremists or zealots took over the fortress in what would be their last stand against the Romans. The Jews turned what was Herod’s stable into a synagogue and converted the bath houses into ritual mikvah baths. Many personal and household items were found as well as over 5,000 coins minted by the rebels. The 960 rebels held Mount Masada for five years before succumbing to the attacking Romans however instead of surrendering they chose to commit suicide rather than fall into Roman hands.

 Roman ballista balls were found by the hundreds, a sign of the fierce battle that took place here. We can also see the remains of the Roman efforts to reach the mountain top, there were Roman camps at the foot of the mountain, siege walls and siege ramps built up the sides of the steep cliffs. On the western side of the mountain a siege wall was constructed 2 km long and 2 meters thick.

Intricate work has been done to reconstruct the structures on Mount Masada using traditional authentic materials. Special emphasis has been put on preserving the beautiful mosaics and murals.

Reaching the mountain top of Masada today is not as difficult as it was for the Romans, now you can take a cable car to the summit or walk up the Eastern side of the mountain along the “snake path” which twists and turns up the steep slopes.



 

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