King HerodThe Israel Museum has opened up an exhibit which will last from February through October 5, 2013 titled “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey.” It is the world’s first exhibit on one of the most controversial and influential figures in both Roman and Jewish history, King Herod. This exhibition will display 250 precious archaeological finds from Herod’s recently discovered tomb in Herodium, as well as from Jericho and other related sites, demonstrating the architectural and political impact of King Herod’s reign between 37 to 4 BCE.

King Herod was known for his brutality. He had an enormous secret police force and he used it with impunity, killing off any one whom he suspected of plotting against him, while possessing a special vengeance for the Hasmoneans who challenged his right to rule. In fact, Herod even went as far as executing his wife, three of his children, and rabbis of the Sanhedrin. His contemporaries condemned Herod for having the audacity to rule despite being the son of an Idumean (an ancient people that converted to Judaism), perverting the office of the High Priest in the Jewish Temple, spreading terror throughout his kingdom, and promoting Roman culture within the country.

Professor Ehud Netzer and Roi Porat  in the Royal Room of  the theater at Herodium

Professor Ehud Netzer and Roi Porat
in the Royal Room of the theater at Herodium

However, King Herod also had a softer side to him. He was referred to as “the greatest builder in human history.” King Herod not only renovated and reconstructed the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but also built the massive fortress at Masada, the city of Caesarea, his Jericho winter palace, Cypros, Herodium, and many other fortresses, public buildings, pagan temples, palaces, etc. In fact, the majority of ancient tourism sites that visitors to Israel often see were built by King Herod. This exhibit at the Israel Museum seeks to recreate the funeral route of King Herod, from his Jericho winter palace through Jerusalem to his tomb at Herodium.

The Israel Museum, by displaying archaeological relics from the era of King Herod, hopes to examine Herod’s remarkable building projects, as well as his foreign policy, and to vividly recreate his funeral procession. Herod’s tomb at Herodium was discovered by the late Professor Ehud Netzer of the Hebrew University, who unearthed at Herodium a grand fortress, a beautiful palace, decorated bathhouses, a royal Roman-era theater, and large pools. This exhibit is dedicated to the lifetime achievements of Professor Netzer, who had searched for Herod’s Tomb over a span of 40 years.

According to James Snyder, the director of the Israel Museum, “Professor Ehud Netzer capped his decades-long excavation of Herodium with his discovery of King Herod’s tomb in 2007, and over the past five years, archaeologists excavating the site have made remarkable discoveries that have deepened our appreciation of Professor Netzer’s remarkable achievement and enriched our understanding of Herod, his reign, and his role in the history of the region. We are proud of the extensive restoration work that our conservation staff has been able to complete and thrilled to present these important finds to the public, for the first time, in an exhibition that will illuminate a pivotal period in the history of the Land of Israel.”

To view a scene from the exhibit, see below!

By Rachel Avraham