The hilltop fortress of Machaerus, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea and 53 kilometres south-west of Amman, is recorded as the place where John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded.
John preached a baptism of repentance at the Jordan River and foretold the coming of Jesus the Messiah, who was his cousin. He also criticised Herod Antipas, the governor of Galilee and Perea, for unlawfully marrying his half-brother’s wife, Herodias — thereby earning her enmity.
Herod Antipas imprisoned John, but Mark’s Gospel says he protected him, “knowing that he was a righteous and holy man”, and “liked to listen to him” (6:20). The governor’s birthday banquet for the leaders of Galilee gave Herodias her opportunity to get rid of John. Her daughter, Salome, danced for the gathering and so enthralled Herod that he offered her whatever she wanted — “even half of my kingdom” (6:23).
Salome sought her mother’s advice and then asked for John the Baptist’s head. Herod, “deeply grieved”, gave the order. John was executed and his head brought in “on a platter”. John’s disciples took away his body for burial. (6:26-29). According to the historian Josephus, John’s execution took place at Machaerus.