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Masada


The Fortress of Masada (a name equivalent to “fortress” in Hebrew) is found 18 km south of En Gedi, and it is situated on an isolated mountain with a very distinctive shape.

Flavius Josephus (Jewish War 7,286-294) recounts that the fortress was constructed by the Asmonaeans (probably by Alexander Jannaeus 106-73 BC) and by King Herod (40-4 BC). The place boasted of having a whole series of “natural and artificial defenses”, which made it impregnable.

After the fall of Jerusalem (70 AD), the zealots made in Masada their last stand. In this place they endured two more year of siege by the Roman legions.

Masada: the impregnable fortress
1. Upper ending of the “Snake Path”
2. Housing units with “triclinia”
3. Storerooms
4. Thermal baths
5. Northern palace (three levels)
6. Administrative palace
7. Observation point
8. Synagogue
9. Casemate wall
10. Roman breach and assault ramp
11. West entrance
12. Bursecai tower (tanners workshop)
13. Western palace
14. Byzantine church
15. Officials' quarter
16. Guard tower
17. Residences
18. Round columbarium
19. Huge water-cistern
20. South fortress
21. Casemate wall and zealots dwellings
22. Monastic cell

A large complex of storerooms guaranteed to the inhabitants a vast reserve of provisions, whose perfect conservation was due to the dryness and healthiness of Masada climate. (Jewish War 7,295-299).

Health care and sanitation, as well as places for pleasure were not lacking. Among them were thermal baths with their sumptuously frescoed walls.

The Eastern palace was like an eagle nest hanging upon a frightful ravine. From there one may enjoy a very ample view on the opposing bank of the Dead Sea. It was meant as the exclusive residence of the King and of the members of his family.

The synagogue, with stepped benches along its walls. Inside the north-western corner’s storage room were found many parchment fragments, biblical and non-biblical texts, ostraka, and coins belonging to the Jewish revolt.

Siege walls and camps erected by the Roman soldiers are still visible (Jewish War 7,304).

Silva, the Roman general who directed the siege and final assault of the fortress, was residing in the largest of the different camps built around Masada. An massive assault ramp (agger) was set across the valley on the western side of the fortress. After the ramp was complete, the Romans succeeded to move the battering ram up and to direct it against the wall until it crumbled (Jewish war 7,305-319).

Triclinium in the Western Palace. The zealots may have gathered there for their meetings. F. Josephus describes how, during the last night, Eleazar gathered all the defenders and persuaded them to kill themselves rather than fall into the hands of Romans (Jewish War 7,320-401).

The Western Palace was composed of many rooms and provided with everything comfortable and luxurious. This clearly appears from the bathrooms, which are adorned by graceful mosaic floors. An elaborate multicolored medallion is visible at the center of an extended field of plain, white cubes.

A small number of tower-like structures seem to have been expressly made to host pigeon nests (columbaria). Pigeon meat was probably a component of the normal diet of Masada’s ancient inhabitants.

Water scarcity, typical of the local desert climate, was met with clever efforts to retain every drop of rain coming down in winter. For this purpose, sizeable water reservoirs were dug deep in the rock of the mountain.

During the Byzantine period (V-VI cent. AD), monks and hermits dwelt in the ruins of the ancient fortress. They also succeeded in building a church with some living quarters.

The monastic edifices were embellished by colorful mosaic floors and geometric decorations all over the walls.

Click on the photos to enlarge..


External Links

Masada (The Unofficial Guide)

Masada (Bible Places)

Masada (World heritage - UNESCO)


 SBF main, Excursions Index



Biblical Excursions

The Holy Land


 I 
Emmaus-Nicopoli
Eqron
Ascalon
Gezer

 II 
Jaffa
Tel Qasileh
Ramleh
Lod

 IIIa 
Maaleh Adummin
Qumran

 IIIb 
Israelite
Jericho
Herodian
Naaran

Tell es-Sultan
Mafjar

 IV 
En Gedi
Masada

Appendix 
Samaria

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