Saturday, 20 August 2011


I cannot paint at the moment as I am in some faceless FOB in southern Helmand. So in the absence of any model soldiers how about a piece of military tourism? Before coming back to Afghanistan I worked for a year in the West Bank and lived in Jerusalem. This allowed me to visit the fortress of Masada on a couple of occasions.

Masada was a fortress built by Herod during the Roman occupation. It is simply breathtaking. Perched on the top of a rocky plateau it dominates the local area and was the scene of the Jewish rebellion sometime early AD. It's accessible by a cable car but the more adventurous can follow the original donkey track to the top on foot. Careful though, it's steep. Two things I would commend to wargamers and historians alike. First is the path which the Romans built to get their siege towers up to the wall.  It's vast and looks like a 45 degree skateboard ramp. I simply could not believe the logistic and engineering effort it must have taken to get the infantry up to the top. No wonder the defenders decided to do themselves in when faced with such a determined enemy.

Second is the fact that the site is still comparatively untouched. From the castle walls you can look down and see the besieging Roman compounds all still laid out. Again its a massive effort in a climate that is both hot and humid. No energy drinks or iced water for the troops at that time. I've attached a couply of photos below which I hope give the idea. The first shows the ramp - it is the smooth pathway that lead from the middle right of the picture. The second is a view of an encampment - its the obvious enclosure to the lower left. I hope they give you the idea.

If you are an enthusiast and you get the chance then go. Its also on the road to the resort of Eilat which is, quite frankly, hideous. Don't believe the hype on that one but that's another story

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