Machaerus (Μαχαιρούς), a strong fortress of Peraea, first mentioned by Josephus in connection with Alexander, the son of Hyrcanus I, by whom it was built (Ant. 12:16, 3; War, 7:6, 2). It was delivered by his widow to her son Aristobulus, who first fortified it against Gabinius (Ant. 14:5, 2), to whom it afterwards surrendered, and by whom it was dismantled (ib. 4; compare Strabo, 16:762). Aristobulus, on his escape from Rome, again attempted to fortify it, but it was taken after two days' siege (War, 7:6). In his account of this last capture by Bassus, Josephus gives a detailed description of the place. It was originally a tower built by Alexander Jannaeus as a check to the Arab marauders. It was on a lofty point, surrounded by deep valleys, and of immense strength, both by nature and art (compare Pliny, Hist. Nat. v. 15). After the fall of Jerusalem it was occupied by the Jewish banditti. The Jews say that it was visible from Jerusalem (Schwarz, Palestine, p. 54). Its site was identified in 1806 by Seetzen with the extensive ruins now called Ilikrauer, on a rocky spur jutting out from Jebel Attarus towards the north, and overhanging the valley of Zerka Main (Reise, 1:330-4). Josephus expressly states that it was the place of John the Baptist's beheading (Ant. 18:5, 2), although he had said immediately before (ib. 2) that it was at the time in the possession of Aretas. See JOHN THE BAPTIST.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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