Masada is a Hebrew word meaning fortress. In the southern district of Israel, the ancient fortress is situated on the top of solitary tock plateau. The fortress is on the eastern edge of Judaean desert. Masada is also dramatically located site of great scenic beauty overlooking the Dead Sea. It is quoted that the Judaean king Herod the great constructed this great palace complex in the period 37 to 31BC. King Herod constructed the great palace in classic Roman style for himself and the fortress on the mountain. Masada is 20kilometres from city of Arad on the eastern side.
The natural approach to the cliff is very difficult as on the eastern edge it is 400 meters high while on the western edge the cliff is around 91 meters. The top is a plateau 550m by 270m; the fortress had many towers storehouses, barracks an armory and palace. There were cisterns made that were filled with rainwater. The fortress had three narrow winding paths that led to the fortified gates. This place has an emblematic value to the Jewish people.
Masada was declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in the year 2001, since then the place has been thronged by the visitors who can hike up or travel through the cable car to the top. It is an archaeological site of great significance. The place has remains of the place of King Herod which is unique example of architecture, and the untouched seigeworks being the finest piece in the Roman world.
Herod the great, King of Judaea, who reigned in the period between 37 BC to 4 BC, built this Masada complex. The hanging palace with its three terraces is outstanding example of architectural design constructed in extreme conditions. The water system is exquisitely sophisticated, collecting rainwater to sustain the life of thousands in the complex. This has allowed the conversion of barren isolated hilltop into lavish retreat.
The Masada complex was occupied by the survivors of Jewish revolt against the Romans; it was then besieged by the Roman army. The army camps, attack ramp and the seigework surround the site. Masada is an excellent example of struggle between the oppression and liberty.
Masada complex is an attractive tourist destination for the following;
- Masada is the symbol of the ancient Jewish Kingdom of Israel.
- Masada is also the silent observer of its violent destruction in the later 1st century BCE.
- The palace of King Herod is the masterpiece in architectural design with luxurious villa of the early Roman Empire.
- The camps and the other constructions by the Romans during the siege are the finest and most complete Roman siegework that have survived even today after so long.
- It is mentioned that 960 Jewish refugees , men women and children committed mass suicide in their last days. This tragic event of the Jewish refugees who occupied the monument is a symbol of Jewish culture and more so an ardent example of the struggle between oppression and liberty.
The history of Masada is known to the world mainly due to the work of historian Josephus, the Jewish historian of the 1st century BC and from the excavations in 1963 to 1965.