The hot springs at Callirhoe were famous in antiquity. There are more than sixty springs in the area, of varying temperatures. Water from the hottest spring is 143° F (62° C). They were visited by Herod the Great at the end of his life, and Callirhoe is depicted on the Medeba map with three buildings, palm trees, and the caption “the hot springs of Callirhoe.”
Josephus writes, “Yet did [Herod] struggle with his numerous disorders, and still had a desire to live, and hoped for recovery, and considered of several methods of cure. Accordingly, he went over Jordan, and made use of those hot baths at Callirrhoe, which run into the lake Asphaltitis, but are themselves sweet enough to be drunk.” (War 1.33.5, trans. by Whiston)
Herodian Palace Remains
Archaeologists have uncovered several ancient villas, first built in the Early Roman (Herodian) period. One large villa had two buildings with a central courtyard. One of the buildings had a plastered pool which received water via a channel from a spring to the east. The site was apparently destroyed in the Jewish Revolt in AD 70.
The site was first identified as Callirhoe by Ulrich Seetzen in 1807. Recent excavations have revealed remains of a harbor. The harbor is evidence of ancient boat traffic on the Dead Sea. It is likely that Herod the Great traveled here by boat at the end of his life.
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Waters of Callirhoe (The Madaba Mosaic Map) Provides a regional map, an aerial photograph of the site, and an excerpt from Josephus. Also has a link to a fuller quote of the Josephus passage. This website also offers a series of excerpts from various modern sources discussing the hot springs of Callirhoe on the Madaba Map, located here. For the complete version of one of the articles which includes a detailed description of the site, click here.
The Hot Springs of Zarqa Ma’in (International Ashtar Tours) Describes the hot springs of Wadi Zarqa, located to the north of Callirhoe.
Canyons in Jordan: Wadi Zarqa (Photosite) Features nine beautiful pictures of Wadi Zarqa, located to the north of Callirhoe.