Masada PDF Print E-mail
Written by Stephen Langfur
Article Index
Water Supply
Herodian Structures
Northern Palace
First Jewish Revolt
Masada and revolt

The Herodian Structures on Masada

These include:

A casemate wall, three-quarters of a mile long, surrounding the entire plateau. Its outer wall was 5 feet thick (not enough to withstand a Roman battering ram) and its inner wall was 3. The Jewish rebels, too numerous to live in the palaces and villas, later adapted the casemates within the wall for living spaces.


The main administrative palace was on the western side. Among the surviving gems is a mosaic floor with a rosette pattern, interrupted by a crude construction of the Jewish rebels.

The mosaic belonged to the lukewarm room (tepidarium) of the palace bathhouse. The hot room (calidarium) contains Herod's bathtub, which is rather narrow. Apparently he wasn't so great. Yet a bathtub discovered at Kypros, another of his fortresses, is much bigger.

South of this main palace are two family villas and what may have been a public ritual bath. Around this bath are niches, used as "lockers" perhaps, enough for about twenty people.

masada public ritual bath ?

Built into the casemate wall, on the northwest, is a chamber larger than the others in the wall. Unlike the buildings on Masada, which have a north-south axis, this one points toward Jerusalem. The rebels used it as a synagogue, and it may have functioned as such already in Herod's day. There was a synagogue, after all, in the royal quarter of Jericho. (More about the Masada synagogue...)

West of the synagogue, on a higher level, is the main bathhouse, restored to good condition. We can stand on its roof to survey the northern half of the mountain, especially the large rectangular chambers for storage of foods and beverages.

Inside the bathhouse are four basic chambers: the dressing room (apoditarium), some of whose frescoes and floor tiles are well preserved; the cold room (frigidarium); the tepidarium; and the hot room or calidarium. In this last, the small pillars supported a second floor. Between the floors flowed oven-heated air, which proceeded up ceramic pipes. The vaulted ceiling prevented the condensed moisture from dripping on the sweating aristocrats.

Just north of the bathhouse we see a plastered wall; it stretches across this narrow part of the mountain. Behind it is the upper ledge of Herod's three-tiered northern palace. He built it as an abode where he could get away from the rest of the family -- hence the wall. In view of the fact that he executed Mariamne, his beloved wife, and later his three eldest sons, we are justified in supposing there were problems in that family. (More about the northern palace... )