Masada

מצדה

( Masada )

Masada (Hebrew: מצדה metsada, "fortress") is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea 20 km (12 mi) east of Arad.

Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE.

According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by Roman troops from 73 to 74 CE, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels who were hiding there. However, the archaeological evidence relevant to a mass suicide event is ambiguous at best and rejected entirely by some scholars.

Masada is one of Israel's most popular tourist attractions. During 2005 to 2007 and 2009 to 2012, it was the second-most popular, behind the Jerusalem ...Read more

Masada (Hebrew: מצדה metsada, "fortress") is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of an isolated rock plateau, akin to a mesa. It is located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, overlooking the Dead Sea 20 km (12 mi) east of Arad.

Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE.

According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by Roman troops from 73 to 74 CE, at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War, ended in the mass suicide of the 960 Sicarii rebels who were hiding there. However, the archaeological evidence relevant to a mass suicide event is ambiguous at best and rejected entirely by some scholars.

Masada is one of Israel's most popular tourist attractions. During 2005 to 2007 and 2009 to 2012, it was the second-most popular, behind the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. The site attracts around 750,000 visitors a year.

Almost all historical information about Masada comes from the first-century Jewish Roman historian Josephus.[1]

Hasmonean fortress

Josephus writes that the site was first fortified by Hasmonean ruler Alexander Jannaeus in the first century BCE.[1] However, so far no Hasmonean-period building remains could be identified during archaeological excavations.[2]

Josephus further writes that Herod the Great captured it in the power struggle that followed the death of his father Antipater in 43 BCE.[1] It survived the siege of the last Hasmonean king Antigonus II Mattathias, who ruled with Parthian support.[1]

Herodian palace-fortress
 
A caldarium (hot room) in northern Roman-style public bath (#35 on plan)

According to Josephus, between 37 and 31 BCE, Herod the Great built a large fortress on the plateau as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt, and erected there two palaces, with an endless supply of food.[3]

First Jewish-Roman War

In 66 CE, a group of Jewish rebels, the Sicarii, overcame the Roman garrison of Masada with the aid of a ruse.[1] After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, additional members of the Sicarii fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop after slaughtering the Roman garrison.[1][dubious ] According to Josephus, the Sicarii were an extremist Jewish splinter group antagonistic to a larger grouping of Jews referred to as the Zealots, who carried the main burden of the rebellion. Josephus said that the Sicarii raided nearby Jewish villages including Ein Gedi, where they massacred 700 women and children.[1][4][5][6]

In 73 CE, the Roman governor of Iudaea, Lucius Flavius Silva, headed the Roman legion X Fretensis and laid siege to Masada.[1] Another source gives the year of the siege of Masada as 73 or 74 CE.[7] The Roman legion surrounded Masada, building a circumvallation wall and then a siege ramp against the western face of the plateau.[1] According to Dan Gill,[8] geological investigations in the early 1990s confirmed earlier observations that the 114 m (375 ft) high assault ramp consisted mostly of a natural spur of bedrock. The ramp 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 on April 16.[9][10] The Romans employed the X Legion and a number of auxiliary units and Jewish prisoners of war, totaling some 15,000 (of whom an estimated 8,000 to 9,000 were fighting men),[11] in crushing Jewish resistance at Masada. A giant siege tower with a battering ram was constructed and moved laboriously up the completed ramp. According to Josephus, when Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its defenders had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide or killed each other, 960 men, women, and children in total. Josephus wrote of two stirring speeches that the Sicari leader had made to convince his men to kill themselves.[1] Only two women and five children were found alive.[1]

Josephus presumably based his narration upon the field commentaries of the Roman commanders that were accessible to him.[12][13]

There are discrepancies between archaeological findings and Josephus' writings. Josephus mentions only one of the two palaces that have been excavated, refers only to one fire, though many buildings show fire damage, and claims that 960 people were killed, though the remains of at most 28 bodies have been found.[14][15] Some of the other details that Josephus gives, were correct – for instance, he describes the baths that were built there, the fact that the floors in some of the buildings ‘were paved with stones of several colours’, and that many pits were cut into the living rock to serve as cisterns. Yadin found some partially intact mosaic floors which meet that description.[16]

Byzantine monastery of Marda

Masada was last occupied during the Byzantine period, when a small church was established at the site.[17] The church was part of a monastic settlement identified with the monastery of Marda known from hagiographical literature.[18] This identification is generally accepted by researchers.[19] The Aramaic common noun marda, "fortress", corresponds in meaning to the Greek name of another desert monastery of the time, Kastellion, and is used to describe that site in the vita (biography) of St Sabbas, but it is used as a proper name only for the monastery at Masada, as can be seen from the vita of St Euthymius.[19]

^ a b c d e f g h i j k Murphy-O'Connor, Jerome; Cunliffe, Barry (2008). The Holy Land. Oxford Archaeological Guides (5th ed.). Oxford University Press. pp. 378–381. ISBN 978-0-19-923666-4. ^ Negev, Avraham; Gibson, Shimon, eds. (2001). Masada. Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (snippet view). New York and London: Continuum. pp. 320–325. ISBN 0-8264-1316-1. Retrieved 26 July 2021. ^ Cohen, Shaye. "Roman Domination: The Jewish Revolt and the Destruction of the Second Temple," in Ancient Israel, ed. Hershel Shanks. (Biblical Archaeology Society, 1999), pp. 269–273. ^ The Wars of the Jews, or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus, translated by William Whiston, Project Gutenberg, Book IV, Chapter 7, Paragraph 2. ^ Flavius Josephus, De bello Judaico libri vii, B. Niese, Ed. J. BJ 4.7.2 ^ Ancient battle divides Israel as Masada 'myth' unravels; Was the siege really so heroic, asks Patrick Cockburn in Jerusalem, The Independent, 30 March 1997 ^ H. M. Cotton (1989). "The date of the fall of Masada: the evidence of the Masada papyri". Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. 78: 157–62. ^ Gill, Dan. "A natural spur at Masada", Nature 364, pp. 569–570 (12 August 1993); doi:10.1038/364569a0 ^ Duncan B. Campbell, "Capturing a desert fortress: Flavius Silva and the siege of Masada", Ancient Warfare Vol. IV, no. 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 28–35. The dating is explained on pp. 29 and 32. ^ UNESCO World Heritage Centre (2001-12-13). "Masada – UNESCO World Heritage Centre". Whc.unesco.org. Retrieved 2013-07-20. ^ Sheppard, Si (2013). The Jewish revolt, AD 66–73. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-78096-183-5. ^ Stiebel, Guy D. (2007). "Masada". In Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 13 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference. pp. 593–599. ISBN 978-0-02-866097-4 – via Gale Virtual Reference Library. ^ Nachman, Ben-Yehuda (January 1996). Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel. p. 48. ISBN 9780299148331. ^ Making History: Josephus And Historical Method. Zuleika Rodgers. 2007. p. 215. ISBN 978-9004150089. ^ Cite error: The named reference Zias2000 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ "Decoding the ancient tale of mass suicide in the Judaean desert | Aeon Essays". ^ Glenda W. Friend & Steven Fine (1997). "Masada". The Oxford Encyclopedia of Archaeology in the Near East. Vol. 3. Oxford University Press. pp. 428–430. ^ Yizhar Hirschfeld. The Monastery of Marda: Masada in the Byzantine Period, Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society; 2001/2002, Vol. 19/20, p. 119, Jan. 2001 (abstract) [1] ^ a b Othmar Keel; Max Küchler; Christoph Uehlinger (1982). Orte und Landschaften der Bibel: ein Handbuch und Studien-Reiseführer zum Heiligen Land. Vol. 2. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. p. 588. ISBN 9783545230422. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
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