My tutor had taught me all about Caesarea’s two-tiered palace. Herod the Great built the Lower Palace on a promontory jutting into the Mediterranean so it would occupy the entire peninsula and command a panoramic view of both the city and the sea. The Upper Palace, positioned above and along the western wall of the Lower Palace, was added later, at the same time as the stadium, to accommodate large-scale public receptions.
The bearers, hardly panting from their climb, set me down in a park of topiaries clipped in the shapes of mythical animals. A nervous dampness swept across my chest then and still does whenever I recall standing on my stress-stiffened knees before the iron-slatted gateway guarded by a serried rank of soldiers. Their brass helmets crowned with a red crest and their sword belts hitched tight, their hobnail boots shifted on the crushed stone walkway as they held back the rearing mastiffs chained to their wrists.
When I turned to watch a gull spiral above the palace, I caught sight on my right of the broad, polished steps that descend to the Mediterranean and on my left, of the north end of the stadium. Then, turning again, my gaze reaching beyond the lip of the promontory, I saw unspooling before me images of the filigreed coast and the fountains of seething foam that, silvered by the sun and whipped by the wind, relentlessly pound its glistening rocks. These magnificent views may have primed me for the splendor of the Upper Palace’s Peristyle Courtyard, but nothing could have prepared me for all that happened inside the gate.
Next week, Miriam will take you inside to the bustling anteroom. Can’t wait? To find out what happens there now, read Chapter 19 of THE DEADLIEST HATE.