Cistern of Masada

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.