Cisterns Herod built to provide water during times of siege and to fill his luxurious swimming pools and supply his bathing complexes. The amount of water needed was staggering. There were several swimming pools on top of the desert mountain, where little rain fell. The main bath complex was one of the largest in Israel, and there were several smaller, private ones for Herod in each of his palaces.

Since the floods in the wadi below were unreliable, Herod needed water sufficient for his family and staff. One scholar has estimated that if all the cisterns were half full, there would be enough water to sustain thousands of people for ten years.

The contrast between the surrounding desert and the abundance of water inside the fortress would have impressed anyone who visited this place. They probably marveled at the vision and ingenuity of Herod, a result that he passionately desired.

The water flowed into cisterns cut into the base of the mountain on the western side. It was then carried to the top of the mountain and emptied into cisterns like this one, which held more than 1 million gallons. The cistern was originally a quarry that provided stone for the buildings on Masada.

It has been noted that Herod frequently defied nature in his attempt to build a legacy for himself. Providing the amount of water needed on Masada was part of that legacy. Visitors to Israel are still amazed at the great vision Herod displayed in his building programs.

See all posts in Glossary

Upcoming Tours

We would love to walk with you in the Holy Land. Here are upcoming opportunities:

Nov 01 — Nov 15, 2020
Walking with the Patriarchs
Led by George DeJong
Spring 2021
Israel in Depth
Led by George DeJong
Summer 2021
Ancient Paths to Modern Leadership
Led by George DeJong
Sep 18 — Oct 02, 2021
Israel & Turkey in Depth
Led by George DeJong
Fall 2021
Through the Roof
Led by George DeJong