Zev Radovan/www.biblelandpictures.com

ENJOYING THE VIEW. Soaring above its surroundings, the fortress-palace of Herodium sits majestic on its hill, as commanding and proud as its patron. The highest point in miles, it offers a panoramic view of the surrounding Judean desert, as well as the Dead Sea to the east and Jerusalem to the north.

Herod left his mark on this site not only by building impressive structures but also by altering the physical topography. A cone was built around the mound itself, giving the hill its recognizable shape. Additionally, Herod lowered the hill east of Herodium, which made the palace appear higher than it actually was, and filled in the valley at the base of Herodium, creating the plateau upon which the pool complex was built.

With its pools and gardens, Herodium would have been a spot of greenery in the arid landscape of the Judean Desert. While the palace-fortress on top of the mound is visible from a distance, the mausoleum on the slope is not.