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Historical Sites In The Holy Land Coin Series

HERODION - 1983. Herod, a Jew of Edomite origin, reigned as king of Eretz Israel, under Roman patronage, for 33 years (from 37 B.C.E. until 4 B.C.E.). He excelled in organizing and developing his kingdom, and carried out numerous building projects both within his country and outside it, including the Temple in Jerusalem, the port-city of Caesarea, fortresses such as Masada and Cypros, as well as theaters and hippodromes - all of which earned him the well-deserved title of "The Builder King".

Herodion is the only palace, however, that actually immortalizes Herod's name. It commemorates Herod's decisive battle there against the last Hasmonean (Maccabean) king, whom Herod faced with great courage, almost perishing in the combat. Herod designated it as the appropriate location for his own burial tomb, and built an impregnable fortress here, as a refuge from his many enemies. Herodion, at the edge of the Judean Desert, east of Bethlehem (and about 8 miles south of Jerusalem), was used mainly as the king's summer residence - a truly pleasure resort in the middle of the desert, rich in water and lush vegetation in an area otherwise parched for water. Unique in Israel for its size and lavishness, it is the third-largest palace to be discovered in the entire Roman world.

Upper Herodion - Mountain-Fortress and Palace - On the top of a high natural hill, Herod erected a 90-foot-high circular structure. The massive fill of earth and gravel heaped up against its walls created a cone-shaped, artificial mountain. An intimate, exotic and protected palace was then built deep at the center of this "crater", consisting of a specious reception room, the royal quarters, a Roman- style bathhouse, and a courtyard surrounded by columns. Deep water wells were hewn out of the slopes of the mountain-side.

Lower Herodion - At the foot of this mountain, was an enormous palatial city, where another palace, twice as large as the first, stood among magnificent exotic ornamental gardens, storehouses, service buildings, and the seat of the regional administration.

At its very heart, was an immense pool (135 ft. X 210 ft.) and at its center, an island pavilion for entertaining guests, that could be reached only by small sailing-boats. This was also surrounded by an extensive ornamental pleasure- garden, and collonades. An aqueduct that Herod built ensured water supply from springs near Solomon's Pools. Herod's tomb was certainly nearby (Josephus, 'The Jewish War', 1), but its actual location has yet to be discovered.

Herodion after Herod - After Herod's death, and that of his son Archelaos (6 B.C.E.), Herodion was occupied by Roman governors, and was retaken by the Jews during their First Revolt against the Romans (66-73 C.E.). It was one of the last strongholds (together with Machaeros and Masada) to fiercely resist the Romans, and was again taken, by Bar Kokhba and his followers during the Second Revolt (132-135 C.E.). Recently, an extensive network of tunnels hewn out in the depths of the mountain by Bar Kokhba's fighters, was discovered. The last inhabitants of the site were monks and farmers during the Byzantine era (the 5th to the 7th century C.E.). Completely abandoned since that period, Herodion today fascinates archaeologists (who began to excavate in 1962). Many tourists are attracted to this unforgettable, impressive site, with its breathtakingly beautiful location.
Description of the Coins
Obverse:
The site ofHerodion as seen from an aerial photograph, showing the Judean Desert hills, with the sun overhead. The word "Herodion" in Hebrew and in English.

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