Contrary to its name, the Tower of David possesses no connection with the actual King David. Its origins are uncertain, but most likely date from Jerusalem's Second Temple Period in the 2nd century B.C. There is a possibility that the earliest fortifications were built by King Hezekiah, who holds a prominent role in the history of Jerusalem's kings as one of its wisest and most devout. But it was when King Herod ascended the throne that the fortress was transformed into more than just walls. Herod wished for the fortress to protect his magnificent palace on Mount Zion, and built several towers which endure to this day. In 70 A.D. when the Romans ravaged Jerusalem, Herod's palace was destroyed.
The fortress of the Tower of David is all that remains of Herod's architectural wonder, which was said to have been grander even than the Holy Temple. According to legend, Titus of Rome spared the Tower of David so it would stand as a testimony to the might of the city he had conquered. Many more permutations of the Tower of David were to follow. When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century, monks inhabited the fortress. Centuries later, when Muslims conquered Jerusalem, they added significant reinforcements to the fortifications which included a citadel. The Tower of David was later conquered by Christian armies during the Crusades and became the seat of Christian rulers in medieval Jerusalem.
For hundreds of years the fortress changed hands, with segments being added and destroyed. The result is a complex amalgam of ancient, medieval, European and Middle Eastern styles of architecture. Today, the Tower of David stands in one of the most colorful and busy sections of the Old City, near the Arab souk and within walking distance of all the Old City's major sights. It is also home to an extensive museum. Despite the violence of its history, Herod's ancient towers within the Tower of David are preserved to this day. Herod was an effective but famously cruel ruler, with a complex emotional life.
One of his most notorious acts was to kill his own wife, Miriam the Hasmonean; yet in his love for her, he erected a tower in her honor. Miriam had the misfortune to be wed to a king who felt threatened by the popularity of the Hasmonean dynasty, even as he was paradoxically still proud to be married to its princess. She was only one of many people who paid for Herod's ambition with their lives.
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