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Masada, a journey through history

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When I was a kid, there was a very popular television series called masada, a historical drama starring such stars as Peter O’Toole, Peter Strauss and Barbara Carrera. It was then that I first heard the name of Masada and the story of this fortress in the Judean desert, Israel.

Today the ruins, huge and still majestic, form the Masada National Park and they are world heritageso if one day you’re going to visit Israel you can’t leave them out of your way.


The ruins include palaces and fortifications built on a hill, in the Judean desert, near the Dead Sea, in what is now Israel. The television series I referred to above tells us about the final moments of the war between the Jews and the Romans, known to history as the Great Jewish Revolt. The Jewish people took refuge here and the Romans besieged the place and they besieged it harshly until those locked up chose collective suicide.

Thus, Masada is a sort of synonym for Jewish nationalism and its affirmation as a people. Since 1966 the whole area has been a national park, since 1983 it has been part of the Judean Desert Nature Reserve and since 2001, it is world heritage according to UNESCO.

The land on which Masada stands is part of a young tectonic massif, little eroded, irregular in shape but very similar to a pointless pyramid. The plateau thus measures about 645 meters long by 315 wide, with a total area of ​​about 9 hectares. On the east side there are cliffs 400 meters high, and on the other side they are a hundred meters high. Access to the summit is therefore difficult.

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Although remnants of ancient settlements have been found, according to historian Flavius ​​Josephus, the fortress was built by the Hasmonean king Alexander Jannaeus and the discovery of coins and stuccowork from that time would indicate that the idea is not reckless. But the story of Masada that interests us is later and takes place at the time of the conquest of Judea by Pompey.

The king Herod, famous, housed members of his family there while he traveled to Rome to request reinforcements to control the region. The fortress then withstood a strong siege by the Parthians, and only a miraculous rain saved them from having to succumb, as they had run out of water. Meanwhile, in Rome, Herod obtained the support he sought and returned as king of judea and gradually he conquered the area, eventually bringing down Jerusalem.

But it was a troubled time: supported by Marco Antonio Cleopatra VII, she was expanding her kingdom, so Herod reinforced Masada thinking that one day he would need a place that was a little impassable. Seven decades after his death began the first jewish-roman war since the voltage was in crescendo. A group of radical Jews worked in the uprisingothers joined and so in the end a group copó Masada killing the Roman garrison parked there.

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In later years the area was a volcano and Masada was identified as a particularly unruly place. Next the Romans took matters into their own hands and decided to put an end to it for Jewish refugees surrounding it with many military camps. The commander planned everything in detail, focusing on entering the access from the western slope. After unsuccessfully trying to break through the walls, he decides to build a ramp which, after several weeks, reaches 100 meters in height.

After seven month seat the ramp was completed and a 30-meter-high iron-reinforced siege tower was built on top. From there the Romans fired and the ram worked to hit the wall. After a while, the Romans realized that the Jews had built another harder wall behind the wall, so they called off the attacks and burned this structure.

The Jews inside Masada were in trouble and decided to kill each other: the men killed his family and then chose ten to kill each other. And so on until there is only one man left who, left alone, sets the fortress on fire. When the Romans finally entered, they found a tomb.

But when was Masada discovered by archaeologists? It was at the start of nineteenth century, in 1838 precisely. Since then the area has become very interesting and everything has been excavated and mapped. A major archaeological dig took place in the 1960s.

Tourism in Masada

What can you see in Masada? The western seaside resort It is accessible from Arad, via road 3199. There you will see the reconstruction of roman machines of the site at Masada, the roman ramp whose ascent involves between 15 and 20 minutes of climbing, the old northern cisterns dug into the mountain and, for a separate price, you can sleep in a tent. there is also a sound and light show at night in the amphitheater.

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On the mountain plateau are the north palace ruinswhat remains of Herod’s three-tiered private palace with mosaic floor and wall paintings which have been reconstructed, the ruins of the only remaining synagogue from the Second Temple erathe room where the names of all the assassins were found, a majority group of Jews imprisoned in Masada during the revolt, a byzantine church built by hermit monks also with mosaic floors, the western palaceenormous and also dating from the time of Herod, the roman bathsthe commander’s chambers with wall paintings and the south cisternhuge space under the mountain.

Accessing from the Dead Sea, Route 90, one enters through the eastern entrance where there is a Souvenir shopan aid station, restaurant and cafe.

Here is also Masada Yigal Yadin Museumopened in 2007, which offers a narrative experience of the events around the fortress, giving a good context at the visit, the cable car which brings you to the door of the Camino de la Serpiente, the most difficult, which can now be covered on foot, involving an hour of climbing and half an hour of descent.

The visit is truly magnificent. You can book entrance to Masada National Park onlinevia the official website, by selecting the date.

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