According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities 20:17-96 and War 45:253) Helena of northern Mesopotamiaand her son were converted to Judaism by Jewish merchants in her homeland. Helena then did a pilgrimage to Jerusalem between 46-48 CE, which she found struck by a famine. The queen set out to gather food as far as Egypt and Cyprus. After these exploits she decided to stay in Jerusalem, where she built a palace. When her son died, in Mesopotamia where he had gone back to rule, Helena followed him and occupied the throne till her own death in 64-65. Her bones were sent with her son’s to Jerusalem and were buried in the three pyramids of her burial monument. The sarcophage of the queen, with the name ‘Tseddan’ is now in the Louvre.
Now the Palace built by this second Temple figure has been found:
Major 2nd Temple structure uncovered
Etgar Lefkovits , THE JERUSALEM POST Dec. 5, 2007IIsraeli archeologists have uncovered a monumental Second Temple structure in a parking lot just outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem opposite the Temple Mount which was likely the ancient palace of Queen Helena, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced Wednesday. The site, which has been unearthed during a six-month ‘salvage’ excavation in the Givati parking lot just outside the Dung Gate ahead of the planned expansion of the Western Wall car park, also indicates that the ancient City of David was much larger than previously thought, said archeologist Doron Ben-Ami, who is directing the dig at the site. The “monumental” edifice, which was destroyed by the Romans when they demolished the Second Temple in 70 CE, was dated to the end of the Second Temple Period by pottery and stone vessels, as well as an assortment of coins from that time, Ben-Ami said. According to the director of the dig, the elaborate edifice, which is an anomaly in the landscape of the Lower City at the end of the Second Temple period – which was marked with modest buildings – was probably a palace built by Queen Helena, a wealthy Iraqi aristocrat who converted to Judaism and moved to Jerusalem with her sons. Helena became known for her generosity in helping the city’s poor during a famine, and was buried in Jerusalem. The archeologists carrying out the dig have not yet found any inscription to identify the building they uncovered, but the excavation director said that there was a “high probability” that the site was indeed the 2,000-year-old palace of Queen Helena. “We need more evidence to decide, but almost everything fits,” Ben-Ami said. The well-preserved structure being uncovered in the ongoing excavation is an impressive architectural complex that includes massive foundations; walls, some of which are preserved to a height in excess of five meters and built of stones that weigh hundreds of kilograms; halls that are preserved to a height of at least two stories; a basement level that was covered with vaults; remains of polychrome frescoes, water installations and ritual baths. The narrow openings that were discovered in the basement level of the structure were likely used by its inhabitants to flee shortly before the site’s destruction by the Romans nearly 2,000 years ago, he said. The elaborate building was destroyed by dismantling the walls of the large structure, causing the massive stone walls and ceilings from the upper stores to collapse in on the basement. The large edifice was overlain with remains that date to later periods: Byzantine, Roman and Early Islamic, while below it there are remains from the Early Hellenistic period and even artifacts from the time of the First Temple. “It is like a open history book of Jerusalem,” Ben-Ami concluded.