One of the most important Israeli ancient historical sites, Masada was the final battle between ancient Jews and their Roman occupiers. Following the loss around 72 A.D., the Romans controlled the area for two more centuries.The site rises dramatically 1300 feet above the Judean desert. Herod chose the location for his winter palace, because it was easily defended. The camps and barracks, fortifications, and assault ramp constitute the most complete surviving ancient Roman siege fortification in the world. Many of the buildings and features of the original fortress have been restored, including Herod’s private quarters, Roman-style bathhouses, frescos and mosaics, as well as the Jewish rebels’ synagogue, storehouses, and living quarters.

Herod’s designs were far advanced for the times. He devised a water system that captured every drop of moisture, allowing the luxury of pools, baths and gardens. The Northern Palace is carved into the mountain side on three terraces overhanging a sheer drop to the desert floor, and astonishes modern engineers.

The actual battle occurred 70 years after Herod’s death. Masada was successfully infiltrated then seized by Jewish rebels provoking Rome to lay siege to the mountain. When the rebels finally succumbed they chose to kill themselves rather than be taken as slaves. Historians say that the final ten rebel soldiers drew lots to determine which of them would first kill the other nine, then set fire to the fortress, and then fall on his own sword. These ten lots were found and identified during excavations in the 1960’s and are on display in the museum.