Masada

Masada

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Masada is the name for a site of ancient palace
Palace
A palace is a grand residence, especially a royal residence or the home of a head of state or some other high-ranking dignitary, such as a bishop or archbishop. The word itself is derived from the Latin name Palātium, for Palatine Hill, one of the seven hills in Rome. In many parts of Europe, the...

s and fortification
Fortification
Fortifications are military constructions and buildings designed for defence in warfare and military bases. Humans have constructed defensive works for many thousands of years, in a variety of increasingly complex designs...

s in the South District of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, on top of an isolated rock plateau
Plateau
In geology and earth science, a plateau , also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain. A highly eroded plateau is called a dissected plateau...

, or horst, on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert
Judean desert
The Judaean Desert is a desert in Israel and the West Bank that lies east of Jerusalem and descends to the Dead Sea. It stretches from the northeastern Negev to the east of Beit El, and is marked by terraces with escarpments. It ends in a steep escarpment dropping to the Dead Sea and the Jordan...

, overlooking the Dead Sea
Dead Sea
The Dead Sea , also called the Salt Sea, is a salt lake bordering Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. Its surface and shores are below sea level, the lowest elevation on the Earth's surface. The Dead Sea is deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world...

. Masada is best known for the violence that occurred there in the first century CE. In the final accords of the First Jewish-Roman War
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

, a Siege of Masada
Siege of Masada
The siege of Masada was among the final accords of the First Jewish-Roman War. The long siege by the troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of the Sicarii rebels and resident Jewish families of the Masada fortress...

 by troops of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 led to the mass suicide
Mass suicide
- Examples :Mass suicide sometimes occurs in religious or cultic settings. Defeated groups may resort to mass suicide rather than being captured. Suicide pacts are a form of mass suicide unconnected to cults or war that are sometimes planned or carried out by small groups of frustrated people...

 of the Sicarii
Sicarii
Sicarii is a term applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, to an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers .-History:The Sicarii used...

 rebels. Masada is located about 20 kilometre east of Arad.

Geography


The cliffs on the east edge of Masada are about 1300 feet (396.2 m) high and the cliffs on the west are about 300 feet (91.4 m) high; the natural approaches to the cliff top are very difficult. The top of the plateau is flat and rhomboid
Rhomboid
Traditionally, in two-dimensional geometry, a rhomboid is a parallelogram in which adjacent sides are of unequal lengths and angles are oblique.A parallelogram with sides of equal length is a rhombus but not a rhomboid....

-shaped, about 1800 feet (548.6 m) by 900 feet (274.3 m). There was a casemate
Casemate
A casemate, sometimes rendered casement, is a fortified gun emplacement or armored structure from which guns are fired. originally a vaulted chamber in a fortress.-Origin of the term:...

 wall around the top of the plateau totaling 4300 feet (1.3 km) long and 12 feet (3.7 m), with many towers, and the fortress included storehouses, barracks
Barracks
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

, an armory
Armory (military)
An armory or armoury is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, issued to authorized users, or any combination of those...

, the palace, and cistern
Cistern
A cistern is a waterproof receptacle for holding liquids, usually water. Cisterns are often built to catch and store rainwater. Cisterns are distinguished from wells by their waterproof linings...

s that were refilled by rainwater. Three narrow, winding paths led from below up to fortified gates.

History




According to Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, a 1st-century CE Jewish Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 historian, Herod the Great
Herod the Great
Herod , also known as Herod the Great , was a Roman client king of Judea. His epithet of "the Great" is widely disputed as he is described as "a madman who murdered his own family and a great many rabbis." He is also known for his colossal building projects in Jerusalem and elsewhere, including his...

 fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. In 66 CE, at the beginning of the First Jewish-Roman War
First Jewish-Roman War
The First Jewish–Roman War , sometimes called The Great Revolt , was the first of three major rebellions by the Jews of Judaea Province , against the Roman Empire...

 against the Roman Empire, a group of Jewish extremists, called the Sicarii
Sicarii
Sicarii is a term applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, to an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers .-History:The Sicarii used...

, overcame the Roman garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

 of Masada. After the destruction of the Second Temple
Second Temple
The Jewish Second Temple was an important shrine which stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem between 516 BCE and 70 CE. It replaced the First Temple which was destroyed in 586 BCE, when the Jewish nation was exiled to Babylon...

 in 70 CE, additional members of the Sicarii
Sicarii
Sicarii is a term applied, in the decades immediately preceding the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, to an extremist splinter group of the Jewish Zealots, who attempted to expel the Romans and their partisans from Judea using concealed daggers .-History:The Sicarii used...

 and numerous Jewish families fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop, using it as a base for harassing the Romans.

In 72, the Roman governor of Iudaea Lucius Flavius Silva
Lucius Flavius Silva
Lucius Flavius Silva Nonius Bassus was a late-1st century Roman general, governor of the province of Iudaea and consul. History remembers Silva as the Roman commander who led his army, composed mainly of the Legio X Fretensis, in 73 AD up to Masada and laid siege to its near-impenetrable mountain...

 headed the Roman legion
Roman legion
A Roman legion normally indicates the basic ancient Roman army unit recruited specifically from Roman citizens. The organization of legions varied greatly over time but they were typically composed of perhaps 5,000 soldiers, divided into maniples and later into "cohorts"...

 X Fretensis
Legio X Fretensis
Legio X Fretensis was a Roman legion levied by Augustus Caesar in 41/40 BC to fight during the period of civil war that started the dissolution of the Roman Republic...

 and laid siege
Siege of Masada
The siege of Masada was among the final accords of the First Jewish-Roman War. The long siege by the troops of the Roman Empire led to the mass suicide of the Sicarii rebels and resident Jewish families of the Masada fortress...

 to Masada. The Roman legion surrounded Masada and built a circumvallation wall and then a siege embankment
Defensive wall
A defensive wall is a fortification used to protect a city or settlement from potential aggressors. In ancient to modern times, they were used to enclose settlements...

 against the western face of the plateau, moving thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth to do so. Josephus does not record any attempts by the Sicarii to counterattack the besiegers during this process, a significant difference from his accounts of other sieges against Jewish fortresses. He did record their raid before the siege on Ein-Gedi, a nearby Jewish settlement, where the Sicarii allegedly killed 700 of its inhabitants.

According to Dan Gill, geological investigations in the early 1990s confirmed earlier observations that the 375 feet (114.3 m) high assault ramp consisted mostly of a natural spur of bedrock that required a ramp only 30 feet (9.1 m) high built atop it in order to reach the Masada defenses. This discovery would diminish both the scope of the construction and of the conflict between the Sicarii and Romans, relative to the popular perspective in which the ramp was an epic feat of construction. The rampart was complete in the spring of 73, after probably two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram
Battering ram
A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates...

 on April 16. According to Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed a mass suicide
Mass suicide
- Examples :Mass suicide sometimes occurs in religious or cultic settings. Defeated groups may resort to mass suicide rather than being captured. Suicide pacts are a form of mass suicide unconnected to cults or war that are sometimes planned or carried out by small groups of frustrated people...

. Modern archaeologists have found no evidence of mass burial at the location and only some thirty skeletons have been recovered on the site.

Masada today



The site of Masada was identified in 1842 and extensively excavated between 1963 and 1965 by an expedition led by Israeli archeologist
Archaeology of Israel
The archaeology of Israel is the study of the archaeology of Israel, stretching from prehistory through three millennia of documented history. The ancient Land of Israel was a geographical bridge between the political and cultural centers of Mesopotamia and Egypt...

 Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin on 21 March 1917, died 28 June 1984) was an Israeli archeologist, politician, and the second Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.-Early life and military career:...

. While a hike up the Snake Path on the eastern side of the mountain (access via the Dead Sea Highway) is considered part of the "Masada experience," a cable car
Aerial tramway
An aerial tramway , cable car , ropeway or aerial tram is a type of aerial lift which uses one or two stationary ropes for support while a third moving rope provides propulsion...

 operates at the site for those who wish to avoid the physical exertion. Due to the remoteness from human habitation and its arid environment, the site has remained largely untouched by humans or nature during the past two millennia. The Roman ramp still stands on the western side and can be climbed on foot. Many of the ancient buildings have been restored from their remains, as have the wall-paintings of Herod's two main palaces, and the Roman-style bathhouse
Public bathing
Public baths originated from a communal need for cleanliness. The term public may confuse some people, as some types of public baths are restricted depending on membership, gender, religious affiliation, or other reasons. As societies have changed, public baths have been replaced as private bathing...

s that he built. The synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

, storehouses, and houses of the Jewish rebels have also been identified and restored. The meter-high circumvallation wall that the Romans built around Masada can be seen, together with eleven barracks
Barracks
Barracks are specialised buildings for permanent military accommodation; the word may apply to separate housing blocks or to complete complexes. Their main object is to separate soldiers from the civilian population and reinforce discipline, training and esprit de corps. They were sometimes called...

 for the Roman soldiers just outside this wall. Water cisterns two-thirds of the way up the cliff drain the nearby wadi
Wadi
Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.-Variant names:...

s by an elaborate system of channels, which explains how the rebels managed to have enough water for such a long time.

Inside the synagogue, an ostracon
Ostracon
An ostracon is a piece of pottery , usually broken off from a vase or other earthenware vessel. In archaeology, ostraca may contain scratched-in words or other forms of writing which may give clues as to the time when the piece was in use...

 bearing the inscription me'aser cohen (tithe for the priest) was found, as were fragments of two scrolls; parts of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible, and of the Jewish Torah/Pentateuch...

 33-34 and parts of Ezekiel 35-38
Book of Ezekiel
The Book of Ezekiel is the third of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, following the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah and preceding the Book of the Twelve....

 (including the vision of the "dry bones"
Dem Bones
Dem Bones, Dry Bones or Dem Dry Bones is a well-known traditional spiritual song, used to teach basic anatomy to children. The melody was written by African-American author and songwriter James Weldon Johnson . Two versions of this traditional song are used widely, the second an abridgment of the...

), found hidden in pits dug under the floor of a small room built inside the synagogue. In other loci fragments were found of the books of Genesis, Leviticus
Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Hebrew Bible, and the third of five books of the Torah ....

, Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

, and Sirach
Sirach
The Book of the All-Virtuous Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira , commonly called the Wisdom of Sirach or simply Sirach, and also known as Ecclesiasticus or Siracides , is a work from the early 2nd century B.C. written by the Jewish scribe Jesus ben Sirach of Jerusalem...

, as well as of the Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice
Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice
The Songs of the Sabbath Sacrifice, also referred to as the Angelic Liturgy, are a series of thirteen songs, one for each of the first thirteen Sabbaths of the year, contained in fragments found among the Dead Sea scrolls. The Songs were found in 10 fragmentary copies: nine at Qumran and one at...

.

In the area in front of the northern palace, eleven small ostraca were recovered, each bearing a single name. One reads "ben Yair" and could be short for Eleazar ben Ya'ir, the commander of the fortress. It has been suggested that the other ten names are those of the men chosen by lot to kill the others and then themselves, as recounted by Josephus.

Archaeologist Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin
Yigael Yadin on 21 March 1917, died 28 June 1984) was an Israeli archeologist, politician, and the second Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces.-Early life and military career:...

's excavations uncovered the skeletal remains of 28 people at Masada. The remains of a male 20–22 years of age, a female 17-18 and a child approximately 12 years old, were found in the palace. The remains of two men and a full head of hair with braids belonging to a woman were also found in the bath house. Forensic analysis showed the hair had been cut from the woman's head with a sharp instrument while she was still alive (a Jewish practice for captured women) while the braids indicated she was married. Based on the evidence, anthropologist Joe Zias believes the remains may have been Romans whom the rebels captured when they seized the garrison. The remains of 25 people were found in a cave at the base of the cliff. Carbon dating of textiles found with the remains in the cave indicate they are contemporaneous with the period of the Revolt and it is believed that as they were buried with pig bones (a Roman practice), this indicates the remains may belong to Romans who garrisoned Masada after its recapture. Others, nevertheless, still maintain that the remains are those of the Jewish Zealots who committed suicide during the siege of Masada, and all were reburied at Masada with full military honours on July 7, 1969.

The remnants of a Byzantine church
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 dating from the 5th and 6th centuries, have also been excavated on the top of Masada.
The Masada story was the inspiration for the "Masada plan" devised by the British during the Mandate era. The plan was to man defensive positions on Mount Carmel with Palmach
Palmach
The Palmach was the elite fighting force of the Haganah, the underground army of the Yishuv during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. The Palmach was established on May 15, 1941...

 fighters, in order to stop Erwin Rommel's
Erwin Rommel
Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel , popularly known as the Desert Fox , was a German Field Marshal of World War II. He won the respect of both his own troops and the enemies he fought....

 expected drive through the region in 1942. The plan was abandoned following Rommel's defeat at El Alamein
Second Battle of El Alamein
The Second Battle of El Alamein marked a major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The battle took place over 20 days from 23 October – 11 November 1942. The First Battle of El Alamein had stalled the Axis advance. Thereafter, Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery...

.

The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan
Moshe Dayan was an Israeli military leader and politician. The fourth Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces , he became a fighting symbol to the world of the new State of Israel...

, initiated the practice of holding the swearing-in ceremony of soldiers who have completed their Tironut
Tironut
Tironut is the Hebrew name for the recruit training of the Israel Defense Forces . In the IDF, recruit training comes in many difficulty levels, each corps or major unit having their own training program. After the tironut, a recruit is certified as a rifleman of a level that depends on the...

 (IDF basic training) on top of Masada. The ceremony ends with the declaration: "Masada shall not fall again." The soldiers climb the Snake Path at night and are sworn in with torches lighting the background.

Masada was declared a UNESCO
UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 World Heritage Site
World Heritage Site
A UNESCO World Heritage Site is a place that is listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural or physical significance...

 in 2001. An audio-visual light show is presented nightly on the western side of the mountain (access by car from the Arad road or by foot, down the mountain via the Roman ramp path).

In 2007, a new museum opened at the site in which archeological findings are displayed in a theatrical setting.

A 2,000-year-old seed discovered during archaeological excavations in the early 1960s has been successfully germinated to become a date plant, the oldest known such germination.

Layout



See also


  • Archaeology of Israel
    Archaeology of Israel
    The archaeology of Israel is the study of the archaeology of Israel, stretching from prehistory through three millennia of documented history. The ancient Land of Israel was a geographical bridge between the political and cultural centers of Mesopotamia and Egypt...

  • Tourism in Israel
    Tourism in Israel
    Tourism in Israel is one of the country's major sources of income, with 3.45 million tourist arrivals in 2010. Israel offers a plethora of historical and religious sites, beach resorts, archaeological tourism, heritage tourism and ecotourism. Israel has the highest number of museums per capita in...

  • Gamla
    Gamla
    Gamla was an ancient Jewish city in the Golan Heights. Inhabited since the Early Bronze Age, it is believed to have been founded as a Seleucid fort during the Syrian Wars. The site of a Roman siege during the Great Revolt of the 1st century CE, Gamla is a symbol of heroism for the modern state of...

    , Golan Heights
  • Herodium
    Herodium
    Herodium or Herodion is a volcano-like hill with a truncated cone located south of Jerusalem, near the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank. Herod the Great built a fortress and palace on the top of Herodium, and may have been buried there...

    , West Bank
  • Machaerus
    Machaerus
    Machaerus is a fortified hilltop palace located in Jordan fifteen miles southeast of the mouth of the Jordan river on the eastern side of the Dead Sea...

    , Jordan
  • Masada (miniseries)
    Masada (miniseries)
    Masada is an American television miniseries that aired on ABC in April 1981. Advertised by the network as an "ABC Novel for Television," it was a fictionalized account of the historical siege of the Masada citadel in Israel by legions of the Roman Empire in AD 73. The TV series' script is based on...

  • Numantia
    Numantia
    Numantia is the name of an ancient Celtiberian settlement, whose remains are located 7 km north of the city of Soria, on a hill known as Cerro de la Muela in the municipality of Garray....

    , Spain
  • Pilėnai
    Pilenai
    Pilėnai was a fortress in medieval Lithuania. It is well known in the Lithuanian history due to the heroic defense of the castle.-Defence:The defence, led by the Duke Margiris, took place on February 25, 1336, when the castle was besieged by the army of the Teutonic Knights...

    , Lithuania
  • The Antagonists
    The Antagonists
    The Antagonists is an historical novel by Ernest K. Gann about the siege of Masada. The novel explores the themes of leadership and patriotism by comparing and contrasting the two protagonists/antagonists of the story...



External links