“COASTAL VILLA” IN THE DESERT. King Herod the Great built a lavish fortress, including five palaces, on Masada. Replete with gardens, a pool, and baths, the Northern Palace—essentially a villa maritima (coastal villa) in the middle of the Judean Desert—showed that he had mastered the art of water collection. Further, according to Josephus, this fortress could house 10,000 soldiers.