Masada – How did they get water up there? Here’s the answer:
King Herod the Great built Masada into a fortress and a palatial retreat. Atop this 1450 foot rock in the middle of the desert, Herod built a complex including a villa, palaces, storehouse and facilities for those supporting the complex. Along with rebuilding the Temple, Caesarea, the Antonia Fortress and his Palace in Jerusalem, Masada stands as one of the amazing building projects that earned him the title the Great.
In his Masada complex were Roman style baths including a steam room, heated pool, cold pool and dressing/massage facilities. Masada was built to house over 1,000 people. Add to this the daily needs for water and the amounts were incredible.
Located 60 miles south of Jerusalem, Masada rises out of the desert next to the Dead Sea. So, how did they get water to support all these people?
To find the answer we must turn to Roman engineering and ingenuity with the help of the present day Plumbing and Mechanics Magazine.
The Romans dammed off two wadis, creating two significant reservoirs of water during heavy flash rains. This water was released as needed to supply the summit. It was channeled to the base of Masada via clay lined canals. Pack animals and hundreds of slaves were used to get water to the top. Water for the steam room and hot pool was heated via forced air furnaces and pipes located under the floors of the two facilities.
Herod also carved twelve huge cisterns out of the bedrock. Each held approximately 140,000 square feet of water. This water was also collected during the infrequent heavy rains and channeled to the cisterns via a complex rain sewer system.
Cistern at Masada, 1 of 12
It was these cisterns that provided water for the Zealots and refugees during the Roman siege of Masada from 72-74 AD near the end of the Jewish Revolt. The amount of water was not only sufficient for daily needs, but even provided for ritualistic cleansing and baths for a synagogue, one of the oldest in existence in Israel, found atop the summit of Masada.
Synagogue @ Masada
Masada still serves today as a symbol of the Jews and Israel’s fierce drive for independence. Until fairly recently, Israeli Defense Forces were sworn in atop the summit of Masada giving the cry Never Again!
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