A precise description, including the measurements of the Herodian towers is found in the writings of Josephus Flavius (Penguin Classics, “Josephus, The Jewish War”, translated by G.A. Williamson) .
He wrote, The towers, which rose high over the city, were named Phasael (after Herod’s brother), (The others honored his wife Miriam and his good friend Hippicus.)
Josephus refers to the south western hill of Jerusalem of that period as the “Citadel of King David.” (War V,3,1) approximately 22 x 18 m., consisting of 16 courses of large ashlar stones weighing over a ton each.
They have trimmed margins and a flat central boss, carefully laid without gaps, and the interior of the tower is filled with large ashlars.
The Tower of David is one of the most impressive examples of royal construction of the Second Temple period in Jerusalem.
It stands to this day to a height of 20 m.!
When the Romans assumed direct control over Palestine in 6 CE the Roman Procurator (governor) resided in the Herodian palace.
According to the New Testament Jesus was judged there.
Jewish “rebels” were summoned before the Roman ruler and were scourged and then crucified (as told in Josephus’ War).
The cruelty was one of the causes of the First Jewish War.
In 66 CE Jewish rebels attacked and burnt the palace.
According to Josephus “they dug a mine from a great distance and made it totter (War, 2:435)”.
Destruction layers coming from the attack were found in archaeological remains in the south of the courtyard.
Four years later, the Roman general Titus conquered the city and his troops against orders, out of control, burnt the Temple.
After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, the Romans established a camp to quarter the Tenth Legion on the southwestern hill of the city.
This camp was protected by the towers built by Herod, which the Roman commander Titus had ordered to be left intact. (Josephus, War VII,1,1)
“The mihrab of the Prophet David”
The Muslims who conquered Jerusalem in the 7th century CE accepted that association, and gave Phasael this name.
The minaret or tower of the mosque was added by the Turkish ruler Muhammad Pasha in 1655.
It has become known as the Tower of David, and a symbol of Jerusalem.
It should be noted that Westerners who visited Jerusalem in the 19th century in search of physical evidence of the Scriptural record mistakenly identified the 17th-century minaret as the ”Tower of David”, thus ”transferring” the earlier error from Phasael to a Turkish mosque.
See The Jaffa Gate and Tower of David Square for more on The Jaffa Gate and Tower of David, the street and the Square.
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