Tag Archives: mausoleum

Model of Herod’s Tomb

I was at Herodium today and took the opportunity to photograph the new smaller than life-size model of Herod’s tomb which has been installed by the path that leads to the palace-fortress. The model was built from drawings by Prof. Ehud Netzer based on the base of the mausoleum uncovered and Netzer’s expertise as both an architect and archaeologist on the Herodian period. Netzer estimates the nefesh as 25 meters high, with a cube-shaped lower level with two rows of decorations below the roof line, a row of egg and dart pattern and below it a row of medallions and vertical bars. On top of this cube sits a cylindrical second level, a tholos with columns and a conical roof. The model shows Nabatean funerary urns in four places along the roof line and the peak of the cone. We found two pieces of stone carved in the egg and dart pattern a few years ago when I volunteered at the dig.

There is also a short video, currently only in Hebrew, that attempts to illustrate the account by Josephus of Herod’s death.

Archelaus omitted nothing of magnificence therein, but brought out all the royal ornaments to augment the pomp of the deceased. There was a bier all of gold, embroidered with precious stones, and a purple bed of various contexture, with the dead body upon it, covered with purple; and a diadem was put upon his head, and a crown of gold above it, and a secptre in his right hand; and near to the bier were Herod’s sons, and a multitude of his kindred; next to which came his guards, and the regiment of Thracians, the Germans. also and Gauls, all accounted as if they were going to war; but the rest of the army went foremost, armed, and following their captains and officers in a regular manner; after whom five hundred of his domestic servants and freed-men followed, with sweet spices in their hands: and the body was carried two hundred furlongs, to Herodium, where he had given order to be buried.

There were a half dozen people working at the tomb site. I noticed the remains of some additional structures that have been uncovered. Unfortunately, access to the tomb area is still closed.

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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.