Towering above the Dead Sea, Herod the Great’s palace-fortress dominates the 1,300-foot-high, diamond-shaped mountaintop of Masada. Herod built the palace as a refuge in case of insurrection. Although Herod never waged battle here, after the Romans besieged Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple in 70 C.E., a band of rebellious Jews occupied Masada and fended off the Romans for at least three years. Preferring death to enslavement, the defenders committed mass suicide in 73 or 74 C.E., according to the first-century C.E. historian Josephus.
Thirty years after Israeli archaeologist Yigael Yadin excavated Masada, his colleagues have completed five massive volumes (weighing 21 pounds) of the final report.