On top of a hill on the banks of the Dead Sea in Israel stands a fort called Masada (or Massada). The rocky hill is 450 metres high but from the Dead Sea the fort can hardly be seen. That is probably the reason why it was built in this strategic position, from where it provided an excellent all-round view of the surrounding area without itself being obviously visible. Built by Herod the Great between 37 and 4 BC, it would have appeared to be an impregnable fortress.

 

The complex was built after the destruction of the Second Temple, when more than a thousand Jewish rebels fled here. They were religious and radical nationalists called Zealots. In the end the fort proved not to be impregnable when it was taken by the Roman general Flavius Silva in 73 AD.

 

The rebels inside the fort would not surrender to the Romans and 960 people committed mass suicide by jumping off the high cliff. For that reason Masada has an enormous symbolic meaning in Israel. Even today soldiers swear on their honour and the flag that ‘Masada shall not fall again’.

 

The complex was excavated in 1963 and later restored. In 2001 it became a World Heritage site.

Location of Masada

Masada in photographs

From the Dead Sea the fort is hardly visible. All you can see is a footpath and the cable car to the top.

View from the fort with the Dead Sea in the distance
Part of the fort has been restored
Pottery amphoras can still be seen in a number of places.
Round stones found in the fort. They were used to throw at enemies.
All around the fort are the remains of Roman encampments occupied during the siege of the fort in 73 AD.
One of the Roman encampments built during the lengthy siege.
View of the Dead Sea from the fort

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