Tag Archives: King Herod

Aqueduct at Caesarea

The first aqueduct was built by Herod at the time the city of Caesarea-Maritima was founded and brought water from the Shuni spring, south of Mount Carmel, about 10KM to the northeast of the city. The water flowed on a single raised channel.

When this was not sufficient, a second “lower” aqueduct was built by the Legions of the Emperor Hadrian (2nd C CE). It brought water from Tanninim (Crocodiles) river. This section, with a tunnel of about 6KM long, was tapped into the older aqueduct, and doubled its capacity and its width. The builders used the same building materials and style, so it may be difficult to see that the pair of channels were built at different times. The aqueduct continued to supply water to Caesarea for 1200 years.

Just past the entrance to Beit Hanania you can find the northern section of the aqueduct and the second aqueduct (Hadrian) connecting to the older one (Herod). In this section there are two stone tablets that were placed into the wall by its builders, the legion of the Emperor Hadrian. The right tablet clearly shows: “IMP CAES(ar) TRIAN HADR(ianus)”. The other tablet is of the Tenth Legion (the Imperial eagle without its head standing on a wreath).

The Israel Trail winds its way beside the aquaduct, through the Arab town of Jizr a-Zarka and then south along the coast to Caesarea. On the beach closer to the Caesarea archaeological park there is another section of the aqueduct. In fact it makes a great hike with the whole family from here along the beach north to Dor or a little further to Habonim.

 

Nymphaeum at Herodium?

I’m a tour guide who often does tours at Herodium, the palace complex built by King Herod about 15 km south of Jerusalem and where, according to Josephus, Herod was buried. Ehud Netzer, in excavating Lower Herodium, described a building that he called the Monumental building at the end of of an elongated course. He suggested that the building could have been Herod’s burial place. Since then Netzer has discovered the base of a mausoleum with finely carved decorations and 2 sarcophagi on the north-western side of the hill.

On p. 38 of his booklet entitled Herodium (published 1999) Netzer writes

“Present-day visitors are always puzzled by a series of grooves cut into all of the half-columns. These grooves were apparently carved to accommodate a piping system which was probably added later during the period of the Roman pro curators, who may have converted the hall into a nymphaeum.”

Interesting. The nymphaeum that comes to mind in Israel is the one in Bet Shean. So I looked up nymphaeum and came across a very interesting article about Hadrian’s Villa near Tivoli:

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~classics/rome2005/updates/week9_10/nov14.html

There’s a diagram of the Canopus/Serapeum complex, an open air triclinium/nymphaeum and water course. This is very reminiscent of the Monumental building and course that Netzer describes (course at Lower Herodium is ~300m in length and ~25m wide).

A plan of the Canopus/Serapeum complex (original image from Sear, p. 180.)

There is another nymphaeum in the plan, in the area called the Piazza d’Oro (based on Figure 103 on p. 177 of Sear’s Roman Architecture; the central dark grey area comes from Figure 114 on p. 96 of Macdonald and Pinto’s Hadrian’s Villa and its Legacy).

(A) A large colonaded pool with garden.  (B) The octagonal entrance vestibule.  (C) The eight-sided space on the southeastern side of the courtyard.  (D) The nymphaeum with five niches for fountains of flowing water.

The article includes a photo of the remains of this nymphaeum, made up of 6 niches (which would have held the fountains) separated by pilasters. There is a channel that would have allowed water to run from the nymphaeum to the pool in the courtyard.

I was struck by how similar this is to the Monumental building, so I have included a photo of it here.

In guiding, I’ve had a number of tourists ask me what the curved cuts in the stone in the lower part of the pilasters (between the niches along the walls, 2 in the end, 3 on each side) were used for. If this was designed as a nymphaeum (either in the time of Herod or by later Roman governors) perhaps the channels were used for water. The course and building are just south of the large pool.

Roman Theater Box at Herodium

First discovered in 2008, the Royal loggia (theater box) above the regular rows of seats at Herod’s private theater has now been fully excavated.

Herod’s theater box, loggia; photo courtesy of Hebrew University

While ruling over Judea Herod wanted “to put Herodium on the map. In order to attract people, there were gardens and waterworks, and the place became famous.” said archaeologist Ehud Netzer, professor emeritus of archaeology at Hebrew University. “The theater indicates that the experiment worked: there was lots of life there. Hundreds, if not thousands, of guests would visit the place and there was justification to provide them with entertainment.”

On your next visit to Israel make sure that Herodium is on your itinerary. I can take you there and give you a comprehensive and fascinating guided tour.

“There is nothing like this in any other location” in Israel, Netzer said of the paintings and intricate moldings in Herod’s theater box. But the style was fairly common across the Mediterranean and reflects the Roman origins of Herod’s power.

Herod’s theater box, loggia, Herodium; photo courtesy of Hebrew University

“Our art history expert said, ‘Hang on, this is something very familiar from Italy,'” in terms of both style and method, Netzer said. “The technique used here was not particularly accepted in this region; it was secco rather than fresco“—painted on dry, rather than moist, plaster.

Depicting natural landscapes, nautical scenes, animals, and the Nile River, the paintings most closely resemble others in the roughly contemporary Villa Imperiale at Pompeii.

According to Netzer, the pictures are not only Roman style but Roman made, perhaps executed in advance of the visit of Marcus Agrippa to Judea in 15BCE. Agrippa was Augustus’ deputy and the man responsible for many of the building projects in his empire.  “It was a one-time mission. The artists came, they painted, and they returned to Italy.” says Netzer. There are other examples from the same period where Roman techniques and presumably builders and architects were sent to Judea for a specified period of time to assist in building projects. Archaeological excavation have uncovered walls at three sites built using the Roman opus reticulatum and opus quadratum techniques. These sites are Herod’s winter palace at Jericho, a temple at Banias and a round structure north of Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, apparently the mausoleum to members of Herod’s family, all mentioned in Josephus’ writings.

4–Day Itinerary

I’m happy when people contact me looking for a multi-day itinerary based from Jerusalem. It’s definitely worth a few days if you have the time. I’d like to share one itinerary that I guided for clients a couple of weeks ago. Of course, this itinerary is just to give you the idea – when you hire me as your guide you get a personalized itinerary that matches your interests.

Day 1

  • We started with an overview of Jerusalem from the promenade at Armon HaNatziv, learned about the aquaduct that brought water to the city from Hasmonean times (100 BCE). From there we drove to Herodium for a comprehensive tour: the lower city (pool, Roman bath, monumental building, Byzantine church) outside the park and the palace/fortress on the manmade mountain top built by King Herod including the latest excavation by Netzer of the tomb and Roman theater discovered on the north-east side of the mountain.
  • Visit to Gush Etzion (Etzion Bloc) to learn about the history of the Gush and memorial to the defenders of Kibbutz Kfar Etzion in 1948. Lunch at a lovely restaurant called Gavna in the forest of Kibbutz Massuot Yitzhak with a view all the way to the coastal plain.
  • Visit to Hebron and the Cave of Machpela, that Abraham purchased to bury Sarah in which our forefathers and 3/4 mothers are buried. The building over the cave was built by Herod. Walk around the city to try to understand the current political reality.

Day 2

  • Walking tour of the Old City covering the 4 quarters, the 3 religions and 3000 years of history, including Herodian, Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader periods. Views of the city from above and exploring underground. Tastes of the city for lunch.

Day 3

  • Visit the Israel museum to see the 2nd Temple model of Jerusalem. Tour of the Shrine of the Book, the unique architecture, the exhibits of artifacts from Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  • Opportunity to stroll through the Sculpture garden.
  • Visit the City of David, the walled Jebusite city captured by King David in 1004BCE and made the capital of his kingdom. Learn about the extensive archaeology going on there and the politics. Possibility of walking through Hezekiah’s tunnel.

Day 4

  • Drive from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and Judean desert, the lowest point on earth, only 42 km away but 1170 meters lower. Learn about the African Rift valley, water, shrinking of Dead Sea, sink-holes, flora and fauna.
  • Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in passing.
  • At Ein Gedi, hike Nahal David to waterfalls and natural pools (it’s delightful to take a dip even in the winter months). Visit the ruins of the Jewish synagogue with mosaic floor.
  • Continue south to Masada, Hasmonean fortress in the desert extensively renovated by Herod, used by the Jewish rebels against the Roman and later by some Byzantine monks. Visit the new museum at Masada.