By Gustave Flaubert
In the eastern side of the Dead Sea rose the citadel of Machaerus. It
was built upon a conical peak of basalt, and was surrounded by four
deep valleys, one on each side, another in front, and the fourth in
the rear. At the base of the citadel, crowding against one another, a
group of houses stood within the circle of a wall, whose outlines
undulated with the unevenness of the soil. A zigzag road, cutting
through the rocks, joined the city to the fortress, the walls of which
were about one hundred and twenty cubits high, having numerous angles
and ornamental towers that stood out like jewels in this crown of
stone overhanging an abyss.
Within the high walls stood a palace, adorned with many richly carved
arches, and surrounded by a terrace that on one side of the building
spread out below a wide balcony made of sycamore wood, upon which tall
poles had been erected to support an awning.
One morning, just before sunrise, the tetrarch, Herod-Antipas, came
out alone upon the balcony. He leaned against one of the columns and
looked about him.
The crests of the hill-tops in the valley below the palace were just
discernible in the light of the false dawn, although their bases,