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Historian Josephus writes that King Herod the Great built a magnificent palace at a spot located about 12 kilometers south of Jerusalem in order to commemorate his military victory over the Parthians. Herod "built a town on that spot in commemoration of his victory, and enhanced it with wonderful palaces... and he called it Herodion after himself," the Jewish-Roman historian writes in The Wars of the Jews.
He goes on to note the strength of the fortress, located alongside a hill with a distinct conical (he calls it breast-like) shape, which Herod greatly expanded and filled with lush gardens, elaborate apartments, and of course, heavily fortified ramparts. And indeed, even today, 2,000 years after Herod's time, Herodion is a wonder to behold. Although the site was conquered and destroyed by the invading Roman army in 70 CE, the ruins are still very well-preserved and include the various halls of the fortress, ritual baths, water cisterns, and the remains of a first-century synagogue built in the Galilean style.
The Herodion is located east of Bethlehem, near the Jewish settlements of Tekoa and Nokdim, and is a major landmark visible for miles around. In 2007, archaeologist Ehud Netzer claimed that he had discovered the tomb of King Herod midway up the hill on the northern slope of Herodion, at a spot that directly corresponds with a description of the King's burial place in Josephus. Netzer died in October 2010, several days after sustaining a bad fall when a railing gave way at the site, which he had been excavating for more than 40 years.