Tag Archives: Josephus

Monumental enough for Herod the Great?

My article with Bonna Devora Haberman in Jerusalem Post:

So they went eight furlongs [a mile, per day] to Herodium; for there by his own command he was to be buried. And thus did Herod end his life.  Josephus, Antiquities, XVII, 8.3.

Herodium

From 37 B.C.E. until his grisly demise in 4 B.C.E., Herod the Great ruled over Judea. World history has anointed few with the epithet “the Great”. He masterminded and engineered the Jerusalem Temple – among the magnificent temples in the ancient world, the fortress-complex at Masada – the most-visited site in Israel, Caesarea – in its day, the largest all-weather harbor built in the open sea, imposing cities, aqueducts, and finally, Herodium – the most spacious palace known to us in the Greco-Roman world before the common era. A giant who moved mountains, Herod was respected, feared, and despised. Reckoning with Herod is indispensable to interpreting the historical and material landscape of Israel.

Herod’s passion lives on. Herod proved to be archaeology professor Ehud Netzer’s nemesis. The Israel Museum staff have been toiling for three years to present Netzer’s discoveries in the first exhibit in the world dedicated to Herod. Commensurate with his life and work, “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey” is unprecedented in grandeur and expense – displayed in 900 square meters, approximately 250 artifacts related to Herod are exhibited, many for the first time. To show even this tiny sampling of his massive production, Herod fittingly required the museum to reinforce its very foundations.

The Jewish Roman historian Josephus Flavius records extensive narrative about Herod – nearly a century after the events. Though he describes in precise detail Herod’s majestic funeral procession to Herodium – performed according to Herod’s own orders – Josephus mysteriously neglects to mention the location of Herod’s tomb. [Read more]


For an in-depth day with Herod – at Herodium and the Israel Museum and/or personalized guided tours of Herod’s other sites and more, please contact Shmuel.

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Food Discoveries at Masada

Yigal Yadin led the archaeological excavations at Masada, an inaccessible fortress situated on the western coast of the Dead Sea between the years 1963-1965. The archaeological evidence from Masada suggests the great richness of King Herod’s stores as described by Josephus, who emphasizes that they are a greater object of admiration than the royal palace itself:

But the stores laid up within would have excited still more amazement, alike for their lavish splendour and their durability. For here had been stored a mass of corn, amply sufficient to last for years, abundance of wine and oil, besides every variety of pulse and piles of dates.

Among the finds archaeologists found some clay shards from Roman amphorae with bilingual Latin-Greek writing, garum BασιλέωϚ ‘of the king’ – referring to Herod. As well, they found shards of wine jars datable by a fragment of inscription bearing the consular name C. Sentius Saturninus to 19BCE. The inscription on the jar indicates that the Philonianum wine from the Italian producer L. Lenius was intended for the King himself.  One should probably add to Herod’s shopping list apples from Kyme, honey and olive oil. The inscriptions not only throw light on Herod’s culinary tastes but show that Herod was able to order such luxurious imports. Herod ordered only the best garum, from Spain which the Roman historian, Pliny the Elder, says was only surpassed in price by perfume and you can assume that it would have had to be kosher.

Garum was a type of fermented fish sauce that was an essential flavour and condiment in ancient Roman cooking (think of worcestershire sauce today). Although it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the Roman world, it originated with the Greeks – its name comes from the Greek words gáron (γάρον) the name of the fish whose intestines were used in the condiment’s production.

Garum was traditionally made in one of two ways. The dry-salting method involved placing layers of small whole fish or the guts of larger fish into a vat on a layer of herbs and spices (dill, coriander, fennel, celery, mint, oregano, and others) and covered with salt “two fingers high”. Repeat until the vat is full and leave for 10 days in the sun after which mix it daily for 20 days (some recipes say allow to ferment for three months). Alternatively, garum makers began with a strong salt solution (brine) into which they placed whole fish or fish intestines. The brine was heated over a fire until the liquid had reduced to an acceptable level.

If you’re interested in making up a batch of garum to taste, you can find various recipes by searching for “garum fish sauce” or check out this great Israeli food blog with a recipe for a modern version:

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/07/17/garum-roman-ketchup/