Masada – site of a mass suicide – or not?

Masada is a tragic location where a large group of Jewish rebels committed suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. It’s also the location of a vast and sumptuous palace built by King Herod. And as the king wasn’t the most popular ruler, he chose a naturally occurring platform surrounded by steep cliffs. Just to keep his enemies out.

There’s been a great deal of archaeological activity on Masada in recent years and it’s resulted in the story of a heroic mass suicide being questioned. According to the Jewish-Roman historian Josephus, the mass suicide occurred during the First Jewish Revolt against the emperor Vespasian. But – there’s just no evidence of it. So, the Masada suicide story has even been described by one Israeli newspaper as fake news.

I visited Masada in 2012, taking the cable car ride up. Whatever the truth, it’s a hugely atmospheric place.

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