An hour’s drive from Madaba along Kings' Highway is Mukawir. Herod the Great's son, Herod Antipas, inherited the fortress and from there ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded after Salome’s fateful dance.
Known locally as Qala’at Al-Meshneq, the Castle of the Gallows is one of a series of hilltop strongholds established by Herod the Great — the father of Antipas — along the edge of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea.
Protected on three sides by deep ravines, it afforded seclusion and safety in times of political unrest. Fire signals linked Machaerus to Herod’s other fortresses and to Jerusalem.
On top of the mountain, more than 1,100m above the Dead Sea, Herod erected a fortress wall with high corner towers. In the center he built a palace that was “breathtaking in size and beauty”, according to Josephus. Numerous cisterns were dug to collect rainwater.
When Herod the Great died in 4 BC, Machaerus (Mukawir) was passed to his son Herod Antipas, who ruled Galilee and Perea (an area on the eastern side of the Jordan River) until AD 39.