MY ISRAEL: THE HERODIAN palace/fortress.
Having begun in the year 167 B.C.E. the Hasmonean period comes to an end with the arrival of the Romans in 63 B.C.E.
Under the leadership of Pompey, Judea is subjugated to Roman domination. The Romans employ 3 strategies to consolidate their rule.
1.Military might 2.Technolological superiority. 3. Architecture, which had to exhibit the following traits : a) Solidity - to symbolize dominance b) Functionality c) Beauty - to seduce and impress both the user and the observer.
The Romans find a willing accomplice to their architectural ambitions in the personage of Herod - the Roman appointed king of Judea between 37 B.C.E to 4 B.C.E.
Gifted with an architectural talent of genius proportions, & imbued with a passion for everything Roman, Herod is the ideal candidate to promulgate Roman ideology.
This coupled with an obsession of his personel aggrandizement, Herod was ruthless in the persuit of his socio-political aims & ambitions.
Herod chooses this site in the Judean desert to commemorate his victory over the Parthians in 40 B.C.E. He names it Herodian and proceedes to build a palace/fortress from 23 B.C.E to 20 B.C.E.
Palace/fortresses are a Herodian innovation, and functioned as administrative, military and entertainment centres.
It is here where the privileged congregated and socialized.
The Herodian is made up of 2 complexes, namely the upper & lower Herodian.
Both sites combined cover an area of 20 hectares = 200 000 sq meters.
In both the upper and lower complexes, Herod subjugates and sculpts the landscape to accommodate his design intentions.
The UPPER HERODIAN accomodates a fortress.
Herod increases the height of the mountain, hence it's volcanic shape. This being achieved by truncating the apex of the adjacent mountain and transfering it to the present location. This innovation increased his visual control over the surrounding area. The circle is the geometric generator of the design, and is arguably the most solid of all forms.
Two concentric circle's punctuated by 3 semi-circle's and a full circle ensures a structure of immense stability and strength.
The two concentric circles supported a walkway above which was patrolled by soldiers, with the inner circle serving as the outer perimeter to the internal space. A pathway bisects the inner circle therby creating a "public" domain and a "private" domain, the latter of which housed Herod's 5 storied palace, colonnaded garden and cistern. Turning to the LOWER HERODIAN, we see a pathway delineated by columns that surrounds and defines the central core of the complex.
The central core comprises of a pool, which houses an island that could be accessed either by boat or by swimming to it. The pool was fed via an aquiduct built by Herod who's water source was Solomons pools, located 5 kilometers south-west of Bethlehem. The eastern edge of the adjacent terraced garden is bordered by a longitudinal building which overlooks the valley below.
The outer perimeter of the surrounding walkway is lined with auxiliary buildings which includes a Roman bathhouse.
The upper & lower complexes relate to each other both visualy, as well as physically by a connecting pathway.
Cleary, this complex was designed to satisfy the hedonistic needs of its users & complied with the Roman architectural aspirations of solidity, functionality & beauty.
Ron Traub (Tour guide & architect)
Website: rontraub-tours.com Photo's : Rimonah Traub.