Machaerus Through the Ages 

Timeline of Events at Machaerus


Late Hellenistic (Hasmonean) Period 

c. 90 B.C.: The Machaerus fortress was founded by King Alexander Jannaeus. During the reign of his widow Queen Salome Alexandra (7667 B.C.), it became one of the royal treasure houses of the Hasmonean rulers.

57 B.C.: It was demolished by the Roman general and Syrian provincial governor Aulus Gabinius. King Aristobulus II tried to seek protection for his 1,000 soldiers in Machaerus. Consequently, he reinforced the ruined walls, but the Romans captured and destroyed the Hasmonean fortress two days later, for the second time.

Herodian Period 

c. 30 B.C.: King Herod the Great erected a city on the Machaerus hill, surrounded it with walls and towers, and provided large cisterns to it. On top of the hill, within its citadel, by replacing the ruins of the Hasmonean fortress, he built a magnificent royal palace for himself that could be reached via a road leading up through the city. As a result, Machaerus was next to Jerusalem, the most strongly fortified place in Judea” (Pliny the Elder, Historia Naturalis, 15, 16).

4 B.C.: Following the death of King Herod in 4 B.C., his son Herod Antipas inherited the fortified city together with the territories in Perea and Galilee, and the royal palace of Machaerus was the only hereditary palace of the Tetrarch from his father. 


29 A.D.: According to Josephus, Antipas imprisoned and executed John the Baptist within the fortified walls of Machaerus, and the Gospels of Mark and Matthew give detailed descriptions on the circumstances of the imprisonment and the execution. During the confinement of John the Baptist, there was a message-exchange through his disciples between himself and Jesus in Galilee. 


36 A.D.: The Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, the earlier father-in-law of Tetrarch Herod Antipas, defeated the troops of his former son-in-law, and destroyed the Herodian fortress of Machaerus. 

Early Roman Period 


44 A.D.: After the death of King Herod Agrippa I in 44 A.D., when the ruined Machaerus together with Perea, came under the control of the Roman Prefectus Judea in Jerusalem, a military garrison stronghold was formed for the Roman army on the ruins of the original Machaerus citadel. 

66 A.D.: The citadel was taken over by the citizens of its lower city and later reinforced by the Zealot rebels. 

71/72 A.D.: After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Romansfor the third timeconquered Machaerus by order of Emperor Vespasian through the Legion X Fretensis, under the commandership of Lucilius Bassus, the Roman Legatus of Judea Province. The fortress of Machaerus was destroyed and vanished into the oblivion of human history. 


Modern Period 


1807 (January 17): Ulrich Jasper Seetzen identified the Machaerus citadel.

1909 (January 1): Fr. Félix-Marie Abel OP identified the Machaerus lower city.

19651974: August Strobel surveyed and published the Machaerus circumvallation wall.

19682019: Archaeologists excavated the Machaerus citadel. 




Győző VörösGyőző Vörös, a Ph.D. in architecture, has directed the Machaerus Excavations and Surveys since 2009. He is a Member and Research Director of the Hungarian Academy of Arts and a Research Professor of the Pontifical University Faculty of Biblical Sciences and Archaeology in Jerusalem (in the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum of the Old City). 


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