Judaea, the Roman province, included parts of the areas of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms, notably Biblical Judah, Samaria, and Edom. Its capital was Caesarea Maritima. Roman influence in the region began in 63 CE, when the Roman general Pompey the Great conquered Syria from Mithridates of Pontus, besieged Jerusalem, and captured the Second Temple; he appointed Hyrcanus, one of the two Hasmonean brothers fighting for kingship, as ethnarch of Judaea. Later, Julius Caesar appointed Antipater, the father of Herod, as Judaea's first Roman Procurator. Later these ties allowed Herod to seek backing from Rome against the Hasmoneans in 40 BCE, when the Senate recognized him as “king of the Jews.” His territories came to include the regions of Galilee, Gaulanitis (the Golan),Peraea and the Decapolis, and Augustus later granted him the coastal cities, Batanaea, Auranitis, and Trachonitis. Herod balanced his allegiance to Rome with the independence of his kingdom, often employing architectural projects to express his ambitions and control of nature to express his capacity to rule . His many palaces, placed strategically around the kingdom, feature dramatically designed landscapes and gardens. Upon his death, his son and heir Archelaus was unable to maintain order and the major part of Judaea was annexed to Syria in 6 CE, with its own prefect, while two other sons of Herod, Philip and Antipas, received territories as tetrarchs. By the time of Trajan, Judea was reduced in size and many of the Herodian palaces abandoned, preserving them over the millennia for archaeologists. Hadrian renamed the province After the Bar Kochba revolts (132-135)Hadrian renamed the province Syria Palaestina, erasing the name of Judaea.
The geography of Judaea comprises a wide variety of biomes, from richly watered plains of the Galilee and the Jordan, to the semi-arid Judean Hills, the humid, fertile coastal plain of the Mediterranean, and the deserts of the Dead Sea valley and the Negev. The period for which we have the richest evidence of a garden culture in this region is during the reign of Herod the Great. An allied king of Rome, Herod’s relationships with Mark Antony, Cleopatra, Augustus, and Marcus Agrippa and other officials ave been preserved in the texts of Flavius Josephus. These constitute a rare record of interactions between Rome and its territories, and provide a valuable context for understanding the trends of design in the early imperial period. The proximity of Judaea to Alexandria, whose palaces and gardens lie beneath the modern city and its harbors, may also provide a suggestion of the late Hellenistic garden culture that Romans emulated. Evidence of gardens in the Hasmonean winter palaces at Jericho and the palace identified as that of Hyracanus the Tobiad at 'Iraq al-Amir on the other side of the Jordan Valley provide rare cases where texts can illuminate archaeological evidence. These gardens require further investigation and both are threatened by local development.
In one of the most beautiful spots of the Eastern Mediterranean, five km west of Jericho, the biblical “city of Palms,” (Deut. 34:3) lie the remains of a royal complex of the late Second Temple Period (the end of the second century B.C. continuing through the mid-first century A.D). Despite their location in the desert some 200 m. below sea level (one of the lowest occupied elevations on earth) these palaces were set amidst an abundance of vegetation and enjoyed a copious supply of water brought from the surrounding hills via water channels. The palaces are dramatically situated along Wadi Qelt where the gorge opens abruptly onto the Jordan Valley floor. (Fig. 1) They were set amidst the large palm and balsam groves for which the valley was famed. Water channels give archaeological evidence of groves to the north of the palace, but literary evidence suggests that royal holdings from Jericho to Ein Gedi were extensive. None of the gardens have been fully excavated, but many have been examined and the presence of rich soil rather than pavement, as well as water channels and ceramic planting pots provide conclusive evidence for the many gardens discussed below.
Pool Complex of Alexander Janneaus
The ascent to the throne of Alexander Jannaeus in 103 B.C. triggered a significant development in the above palace. He constructed another conduit from the “Auja and Na’aran” springs to the north of the palace site, which improved the gardens and bathing facilities. Immediately to the east of the palace, he built a new complex of two swimming pools, each measuring 18 x 13 m., surrounded by paved plazas, and a pavilion to the south of the pools. These elements were surrounded by formal gardens, some of which were peripheral, while others were independent units. The largest of all (70 x 60 m.) was surrounded by colonnades. This splendid layout was built along an axis of symmetry, with the pavilion at one end and a peristyle courtyard at the other end. This may be the first archaeological evidence in the Hellenistic-Roman world of an architectural complex whose main function was to provide bathing and swimming facilities.
By 90 BCE, Jannaeus was experiencing political and military difficulties, and it seems that vacations in Jericho had become dangerous. To address security problems, he buried the palace of his father and on top of it he built an elevated, fortified palace surrounded by a moat. The new building offered the advantages of better views across the renowned estate of palm and balsam groves and greater exposure to breezes.
103 BCE - 76 BCE
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21 Apr 2021