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Mansion of Queen Helene of Adiabene Found?

December 7, 2007

Israeli archaeologists uncovered a 2,000-year-old mansion believed to have been home to

 Queen Helene of Adiabene, whose clan ruled a region now in Iraq.

MansionThe remains of the building were unearthed just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, underneath layers of a more recent settlement that was hidden until recently a small parking lot in east Jerusalem.

The building, which includes storerooms, living quarters and ritual baths, is by far the largest and most elaborate structure discovered by archaeologists in the City of David area, which was home 2,000 years ago almost exclusively to the city’s poor.

Jewish historian Josephus Flavius mentions just one wealthy family living there — the family of Queen Helene.

There is a “high probability” the mansion belonged to Helene’s family, Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Doron Ben-Ami told reporters Wednesday.

“This amazing structure was destroyed with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.,” Ben-Ami said.Excavation

Built when Jerusalem was capital of the Roman-ruled territory of Judea, the building was destroyed along with the temple and the rest of the city when Roman legions quelled a Jewish revolt nearly two millennia ago, he said.

Diggers at the site said the massive stones of the second floor were toppled onto the arches of the first, causing the house to collapse. In the ruins they found ceramic shards and coins dating to the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome.

The Queen came from a royal clan that ruled Adiabene, a region now in northern Iraq, and converted along with her family to Judaism. They came to Jerusalem in the first half of the first century A.D.

In texts she was praised for her generosity to Jerusalem’s poor, and for making contributions to the Second Temple, the center of the Jewish faith, near her house. She was buried in an elaborate tomb not far away.


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