King Herod has always been a source of fascination for scholars and the general public. He is chiefly known for his acts of cruelty: the execution of his wife and children, the annihilation of the Hasmonean Dynasty, and his harsh and iron-fisted rule. But alongside these acts, it should be recalled that he was also a king who changed the landscape of the Land of Israel and introduced many innovations, which originated in Roman culture. In the meantime, he managed to preserve Judea's independence, to expand its territory, and to maintain peace for 33 years through a complex integration and balancing of the cultures of East and West, Judea and Rome. Several literary sources, notably Flavius Josephus and the New Testament, tell us much about him, and further information is provided by the many remains of his spectacular building projects throughout the land.
Herod died in Jericho in 4 BCE, and his lavish funerary procession – which he planned in full detail – started out from there for Herodium, where he was buried. In 2007, after searching for many years, Ehud Netzer discovered Herod's tomb on the slope of Herodium. For Professor Netzer, architect and archaeologist, who had already excavated numerous Herodian sites and was one of the founders of the field of "Herodian archaeology," this discovery represented the pinnacle of his career, the exciting culmination of his excavations at the king's palaces in Jericho, Cypros, Caesarea, Masada, and Herodium. Further excavations at Herodium revealed additional remains in the vicinity of the tomb, among these, a small theater with a lavishly decorated Royal Room on top. At Ehud's request, the staff of the Israel Museum played an active role in conserving the rare wall paintings that were discovered in this room, and the Museum even underwrote the conservation costs.
From the moment of the tomb's discovery we started thinking with Ehud about the possibility of presenting the finds in an exhibition. It soon became clear that, surprisingly, there has never been a comprehensive exhibition devoted to Herod, and we realized that it would simply be wrong to deal with the king's death and burial without addressing his life. Ehud was a full partner in the planning of the exhibition, and together with him we decided upon the content and style of the publication that would accompany it.
In October 2010, we traveled together to Herodium in order to select the elements that would be transferred to the Israel Museum for the reconstruction of the tomb. At the end of an exhilarating morning of discussions and decisions, Ehud fell to his death in the theater, only a few meters away from the king's tomb, which he had searched for most of his life.
We were left with the challenge of planning the exhibition without our main partner and advisor, and with the task of dealing with excavated material that had not yet been fully processed. The members of the Herodium expedition – Roi Porat, Ya'akov Kalman, Rachel Chachy, Marcos Edelcopp, as well as Ehud's family – Devorah and the children – left at our disposal finds, drawings, reconstructions, and plans, and kept us informed about each new discovery. We owe them a tremendous debt of gratitude. Rachel Bar-Natan and Judith Gartner filled in essential gaps by providing information about the finds from Jericho and Masada; and Assaf Avraham and Frankie Snyder helped with the reconstruction of the palace floor designs. Before his death, Ehud managed to complete his chapter on Herodian architecture, and even his personal introduction; the members of the Herodium expedition helped us complete the chapters related to Herodium. The exhibition and publication are dedicated to Ehud's memory.
The publication examines the finds from the latest excavations at Herodium and represents the first publication of these finds after their processing. Its purpose is to present the discoveries to the general public within their historical and cultural context and to reignite interest in this highly accomplished king and his achievements. The publication includes contributions by leading scholars from Israel and abroad, which complement one another (while sometimes presenting contradicting views). The historical chapters shed light on the period, on Herod's relationships with the Roman rulers, on the problems within his family, and on the attitudes toward Herod in scholarship. The archaeological chapters are devoted to the uniqueness of Herodian architecture, its decorative and architectural styles, buildings for mass entertainment constructed by Herod, and, of course, the finds from the excavations at Herodium – the tomb, its restoration, and the sarcophagi that it contained.
The publication incorporates drawings and photographs of objects presented in the exhibition, a large portion of which are presented here for the first time. We are indebted to the many authors who took part in this publication for their fascinating contributions, each one of them offering a unique point of view. Special thanks are due to Yael Bamberger, the book's designer, who devoted untold hours to this complex project and integrated the text and illustrations with taste and inspiration. We are also grateful to Nirit Zur, Head of the Publications Department, whose creative thinking contributed significantly to the book's final form, and to Yael Diner and Rebecca Leffell, who toiled over the endless corrections with dedication and care; to the photographers of the objects and landscapes, especially Meidad Suchowolski , whose object photos were produced especially for this publication, and to Elie Posner , Head of the Photography Department. We thank the style editors, Nancy Benovitz (responsible for the English publication) and Efrat Carmon (responsible for the Hebrew publication), who translated and edited the texts with talent and sensitivity and managed, in the short time at their disposal, to improve the language and clarity of the vast quantity of text appearing in this book.
We deliberated over the best way to present Herod's monumental architecture within the exhibition galleries, since the power of his architecture was largely connected to the spectacular locations he chose for his buildings and to the buildings' interior decoration. We decided to produce several complete reconstructions of ancient spaces, to show how they would have looked in Herod's time, and to enable visitors to step inside them: the Throne Room from the palace at Jericho, the Royal Room above the theater at Herodium, and, most challenging, the upper story of Herod's mausoleum with the sarcophagus inside. Together with the exhibition designers we decided that the exhibition would begin with the death of Herod at Jericho, and from there, visitors would follow his "funerary procession" to his tomb at Herodium, passing through stations relating to his life story along the way. They would be able to travel through wide exhibition spaces, in which large objects would be on display, affording them a direct and immediate experience. We wish to thank the many consultants, lending institutions, and private lenders from Israel and abroad, whose names are mentioned at the beginning of this publication, as well as the scholars, local and international, who have accompanied us along the way, agreeing with us, arguing with us, and offering invaluable advice. Special thanks are due to the team of the Staff Officer for Archaeology – Civil Administration of Judea and Samaria, and its director, Hananya Hizmi, and curator, Yoav Tzionit, for their assistance and permission to exhibit the finds; to the staff of the National Treasures Department of the Israel Antiquities Authority, headed by Uzi Dahari, with special gratitude to Michael Sebbane, Orit Shamir, and Adi Ziv-Asudri; the staff of the Herodium National Park and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who helped facilitate work at the site; the museums who graciously allowed us to borrow objects from their own galleries for the sake of this exhibition – the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa, the Davidson Center in Jerusalem, and the Masada Museum; and to David Hendin, New York, for his contribution and crucial intermediary role.
Working on the exhibition was a creative and enriching experience, mainly due to the wonderful staff that supported us. We cannot cite each person individually, but the names of all our partners appear at the end of this publication, and we extend our warmest appreciation to them all. Still, it would be impossible not to offer special thanks to a few of them: First of all, the members of the Israel Museum Restoration Laboratories: David Bigelajzen, Andrei Vainer, Victor Uziel, Connie Green, Annemarie Bartfeld, Paolo Recanati, Alon Kedem, Shmulik Freireich, Lorne Morley, Yoav Bezaleli, Olga Negnevitsky, Tamar Gonen, and Michael Maggen, who handled the responsibility for the conservation and restoration of a large variety of objects with unparalleled dedication and professionalism, reassembled wall paintings, stuccowork, sarcophagi, columns, capitals, and an abundance of architectural elements, and turned myriads of fragments into complete objects suitable for exhibition. Without them, this exhibition would not have been possible.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes to the designers of the exhibition, Ido Bruno and Avi Orr, who were not only responsible for the design of the wonderful exhibition spaces, but were also involved in decisions regarding content, style, exhibition route, installation, and reconstruction; to the graphic designer, Sonja Olitsky, who created a graphic concept of Herodian proportions; to Alon Hetzroni, for the 3D animations, through which he has brought to life buildings that vanished long ago; to director Lavi Vanounou, who created the films; and to photographer Avraham Hay, who captured the desert landscape and enabled us to recreate it in the galleries.
We could never have completed our task without the help of many Israel Museum staff members, who contributed their experience, raised ideas, and lent a hand at various stages: We thank James Snyder, Israel Museum Director, who supported the exhibition from the outset and found a common language with Professor Netzer; Dor Lin, Deputy Director, who made it possible to realize a production of exceptional scope; Tania Coen-Uzzielli, Head of Curatorial Services, and her staff; Dalia Angel, in charge of the budget; Lea Rotstein, for devoting infinite time and energy to the exhibition; Dalia Lazar, who removed many obstacles from our path; Oren Sagiv, who was a partner in our deliberations regarding the design; Henk van Doornik and Noga Raved, for coordinating the object loans from museums and collectors; the Technical Services department, headed by Pesach Ruder and Shay Niv, who engineered the hanging of the objects and created the model of Herodium on view in the exhibition; Menahem Amin, Amit Bauml, and Alexander Uretsky, for the high-quality screening of the films; and the staff of the Maintenance Department, who shouldered the extra burdens engendered by the "construction site" that we created in the heart of the Museum.
The staff of the Bronfman Archaeology Wing provided support, advice, and encouragement. We thank Michal Dayagi-Mendels, Chief Curator of Archaeology, for her supervision and reassurance; and Alison Ashenberg, Wing Coordinator, and Matan-El Shukrun, Project Management Officer, who provided invaluable production assistance and gave unstintingly of their time and talent. Special thanks are due to Elena Magid, Registrar for the Archaeology Wing, Ronit Selig, Secretary, and Naama Brosh, Senior Curator, who provided active assistance. We also thank the curators in other Museum wings, who readily supplied information and offered their help.
Finally, we wish to express our deepest gratitude and appreciation to Rachel Caine, our Associate Curator, who played a central role in the concept and realization of this exhibition from day one, and to Tali Sharvit and Morag Wilhelm, Assistant Curators, for their professional and energetic contributions. Without them, this project would never have been completed. The exhibition and publication would have not come to life without the help of all those mentioned above and elsewhere in this book. To all, we extend our most sincere thanks.
Curator of Hellenistic, Roman,
and Byzantine Periods
Rodney E. Soher Senior Curator
of Classical Archaeology