It’s been a while (since my holiday in the Middle East, in fact) since religious history made its way into the lessons. Religion seems to come up in waves in my life and I’m riding out one of those waves at the moment…the Durkheim discussion the other night, the Pew Research article and the premiere of the latest installment of Ken Burns’ brilliant documentary, Baseball* yesterday and today, I happened to stumble on information about Herod’s tomb.
Herod’s tomb was recently discovered (in 2007, which in archaeological terms is like if it happened this morning in the real world**) at the site of the Herodium, 8 miles south of Jerusalem. Archaeologists discovered an ornately embellished broken sarcophagus on the site — though no bones…it is suspected that the rebels may have removed them during the Jewish War — of Herod’s hilltop fortress, a site built up, quite literally — Herod built a mountain from a low hill — in celebration of a victory over the Parthians in 40 CE and destroyed by the Romans in 71 CE in response to rebels using it as a second base of operations.*** Ongoing excavations have also uncovered a theatre and frescoes at the Herodium.
A couple of related articles, here is a very interesting article about what killed Herod, as decided by modern doctors about ten years ago. This is a really good examination of the legacy of Herod the Great that describes his career as “daring and bloodstained,” which, though flowery, is spot on.
*Lest you think that’s sacrilege, see the opening narration of the movie Bull Durham (it starts around 1:25). Also, this is at least the third time Bull Durham has been mentioned in this blog. Like with reading The Iliad, if you haven’t seen it, it’s time.
**Seriously, the guy who discovered it had been looking for it since 1972. 35 years just looking for something. This is why I’m not an archaeologist. I once told an archaeologist colleague of my mother’s that while I find the subject fascinating, I don’t have the patience to dig for five months just to find a few pottery sherds.