The landscape south of Jerusalem is dominated by a peak whose shape suggests a volcano. It is in fact the citadel of a place complex built by Herod the Great between 24 and 15 BC to commemorate a victorious rearguard action on his flight to Masada in 40 BC (Antiquities 14:352-60). From the top there is a magnificent view over the Judean desert, and of the deep Wadi Khreitun with its monastery and prehistoric caves immediately to the south.
Set in open rolling landscape improved by well-watered gardens, and within easy reach of Jerusalem, Herodion would have been an admirable summer palace; there the king entertained Agrippa, son-in-law of the emperor Augustus, in 15 BC (Antiquities 16:13). On a much more mundane level it was the administrative centre of a district (War 3:54-6). Perhaps because it was a place of pleasant memories, or because he had once thought of suicide there, Herod chose Herodion as his burial place. No tomb has been found so far. There is even more doubt that his body was brought there, because Josephus’ two accounts do not agree. They can be reconciled if we assume that dignitaries walked for only a symbolic eight stadia (Antiquities 17:199) from Jericho, whereas servants bore the coffin the remaining 192 stadia (War 1:673) to Herodion.
Its insignificant role in the First Revolt parallels that of Masada, and it was the first conquest of Lucilius Bassus in AD71 (War 7:163). During the Second Revolt (AD 132-5) it served as an administrative centre for the rebels, and may even have been the headquarters of the leader, Bar Kokhba. In anticipation of an assault the defenders integrated the three large Herodion cisterns dug into the north-eastern slope in the vicinity of the stairway into a complex tunnel system, which would have given them both a place of refuge and the opportunity to make a surprise attack. It availed them little. The next occupation was more peaceful. Byzantine monks turned the fortress into a monastery in the C5-C7, and built churches around its base.
Source: The Holy Land by Jerome Murphy- O’Connor