Israeli authorities will open King Herod’s palace-fortress in Herodium this Sunday, affording tourists the opportunity to peer back some 2,000 years and discover the lavish lifestyle of the tyrannical Roman-era leader.
The already-popular tourist destination near Bethlehem has been undergoing excavation for the past 13 years, following the discovery of Herod’s grave.
Archaeologists believe Herod decided to bury his palace near the end of his life, and this decision has paid huge dividends for the archaeological community, helping to almost perfectly preserve much of the site for the past 2,000 years.
The king is perhaps best known for ordering the Massacre of the Innocents at the time of the birth of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew in the Christian bible.
Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority will reopen the site on Sunday and it will be the first time tourists will be able to view Herodium’s arched stairway, foyer and private, 300-seat theater.
Herod was the Roman-appointed king who ruled Judea from 37 to 4 BC. He initially stuck with Jewish traditions but gradually adopted more Roman tastes over time, as visible in the plush paintings and decorations which adorned his palace-cum-mausoleum.
“This is an unparalleled archaeological laboratory,” Roi Porat, the Hebrew University archaeologist in charge of the excavations, who compared it to Pompeii’s preservation under the lava that covered it.
Features such as the palace’s broad staircase, its main foyer replete with striped frescoes with their original colors, three tiers of arches, as well as the site’s private theater booth and royal visiting room will all be open to the public.