Masada is a rocky usual fortress, of majestic loveliness, in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army, in Seventy Three A.D. It was built as a palace complex, in the classic style of the early Roman Empire, by Herod the Great, King of Judaea, (reigned 37 – 4 B.C.). The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day.
Masada is a dramatically positioned site of huge natural attractiveness overlooking the Dead Sea, a craggy natural fortress on which the Judaean king Herod the Great constructed a sumptuous palace multifaceted in classical Roman style. After Judaea became a province of the Roman Empire, it was the refuge of the last survivors of the Jewish revolt, who chose death rather than slavery when the Roman besiegers broke through their defenses. As such it has an emblematic value for the Jewish people.
It is also an archaeological site of enormous significance. The remains of Herod’s palaces are outstanding and very intact examples of this type of architecture, whilst the untouched siege works are the finest and most complete anywhere in the Roman world.
The Masada complex, build by Herod the Great, King of Judaea, who reigned between thirty seven BCE and Four CE, and chiefly the “hanging” fortress with its three terraces, is an outstanding example of opulent architectural design, elaborately engineered and constructed in extreme conditions. The palace on the northern face of the dramatic mountain site consists of an exceptional group of classical Roman Imperial buildings. The water system was particularly sophisticated, collecting run-off water from a single day’s rain to sustain life for a thousand people over a period of two to three years. This achievement allowed the transformation of a barren, isolated, arid hilltop into a lavish royal retreat.
When this natural suspicious site, further powered by gigantic walls, was engaged by survivors of the Jewish Revolt against Roman rule, it was successfully besieged by a massive Roman army. The military camps, siege works and an attack ramp that encircle the site, and a network of legionary fortresses of quadrilateral plan, are the most complete anywhere in the Roman world. Masada is a poignant symbol of the continuing human struggle between oppression and liberty.