THE TOMB OF HEROD THE GREAT
When great men die it is necessary to make a fuss, and so it was when King Herod died.
With some foresight he had built a lavish tomb for himself.
Josephus describes the king's funeral procession and sumptuous burial in
There was a bier all of gold, embroidered with precious stones, and a purple bed of various texture, with the dead body upon it, covered with purple; and a diadem was put upon his head, and a crown of gold above it, and a scepter in his right hand; and near to the bier were Herod's sons, and a multitude of his kindred........ and the body was carried two hundred furlongs to Herodium, where he had given orders to be buried (Wars of the Jews, Book 2, 670).
Herod's tomb was in a class of its own - as befitted one of the ancient world's great builders.
When archaeologists discovered the tomb, they found pieces of not one but three sarcophagi, one of them obviously the sarcophagus of Herod the Great.
The tomb had been built for three people, but who were the other two?
Might one of the sarcophagi been for lovely, tragic Mariamme, the wife strangled by Herod in a fit of jealousy?
Could the other have been for his sister Salome, Mariamme's mortal enemy, who engineered her death?
After Herod's death, the magnificent tomb remained undisturbed for only a short time.
The fortress was conquered by the Romans in 71AD, during the Jewish Revolt, but even before that the tomb had been ransacked and smashed by the Jewish rebels, who hated Herod.
Someone had taken a sledgehammer to the three sarcophagi, and the bones inside were scattered far and wide.
The photograph at the top of the page is a close-up of the foundations of the tomb - all that remains of this once opulent building.
The photograph below shows the tomb, built into the side of the hill on which the fortress stood.
Note: most people at the time had less grandiose tombs - Bible Archaeology: Tombs and Catacombs shows the tombs of well-to-do though not royal families.
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