The Herodion, third largest palace of its day, was built in the wilderness near Bethlehem. The huge structure was a monument to Herod?s wealth and engineering skill. Its buildings covered forty-five acres of land and were surrounded by nearly two hundred acres of palace grounds.
Herod, who was paranoid about threats to his power, feared that Cleopatra of Egypt would invade his land. He built the Herodion as one of several fortress-palaces lining the escape route to Moab, Herod?s home country. In case of attack, he could flee Jerusalem and head to one of his fortress retreats.
See the Herodion on a map
Click here to see a diagram of the Herodion
The Herodion?s circular upper palace could be seen for miles and literally overshadowed surrounding villages. Built on a high hill, the palace stood about ninety feet tall, with steep earthen ramparts built around it. Four huge towers extended above the fortress? double walls.
The upper rooms of these towers caught the cool Mediterranean breezes and served as homes for the royal family and other government powers. The inner circle of the palace was open to the sky and featured a garden, reception hall, and various baths.
Herod also built a lower palace, a huge swimming pool, and exotic gardens at the base of the Herodion. Like his other building projects, the Herodion convincingly demonstrated his tremendous power.