Bathtub for a King

By Alan Knight

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No king, either in secular history or biblical history, has ever surpassed the cruel reputation of Herod the Great.  He was appointed by Augustus Caesar to reign over the Jews in the ancient land of Judea, and did so for over 30 years, finally dying in the year 4 B.C.   

King Herod, with his megalomania, building obsession, and cruelty, was a notorious villain and remains so today.  During his life, he was so worried about being deposed, he had his own wife and three children executed for expected treason.  We’ve all heard or read in the Bible of the evil king that decreed the death of all male children, two years or younger, because he feared the rise of the King of the Jews.  According to the Bible, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to avoid the king’s edict.  

My wife and I have had the privilege of journeying to Israel and Egypt several years ago.  One of the points of great interest was the Herodium.  This was the location of King Herod’s principal palace, located on a mountain top just a short distance from Jerusalem.  This was also to become his burial place.  

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Aside from his nefarious deeds, another significant aspect of Herod’s legacy is, without question, structural in nature.  Few of his undertakings were modest.  This is true in terms of size (his physical constructions were among the largest in the world at the time), architecture (Herod’s reign introduced innovations in fortification, build-quality, shape, and use), and sheer number of projects.  He was responsible for erecting many palaces, fortresses in Jericho, Masada, Herodium, and Jerusalem; aqueducts in Jerusalem, Herzilya, Masada, and elsewhere; the port and town of Caesarea (including the Hippodrome, theater, and temple); and the unprecedented renovation of the Second Temple.  Building things was how Herod earned the title of “Great.”

The renewed Israel Museum now houses many of the artifacts of Herod the Great’s empire taken from Herodium.   In 2013, the museum produced Herod’s Edifice Complex for the public to see.  The press title for the museum’s new and very shiny exhibit was, “Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey.”

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One of the priceless pieces taken from Herodium and representing Herod’s standards for the very best in structure was his ornate “bathtub,” made of alabaster stone. Back then, it was the stone of art par excellence.  Named after an Egyptian town where the stone was mined, it’s characterized by the crystal size (less than .05 millimeters) disposed in an intimate framework that confers alabaster’s translucency and compactness.  The first of these qualities provides alabaster with its characteristic beauty, the second, combined with gypsum’s low hardness, makes it extremely valuable and desired.
Today, Herod’s ponderous bathtub is perched on an original geometric floor.  It must have been some feat to lug that hunk of stone to the museum floor.  

The self-centered king lived large.  Inscribed jugs that once held imported wines especially for the king, perfume bottles that once held rare scents, and containers of pricey balsam oil, all speak to the opulence that surrounded Herod.

Today, tubs of incredible beauty can still be found.  Maybe not as heavy or rare as King Herod’s, but the look of these tubs draws immediate praise and establishes a note of opulence.  They are made of cast iron, and overlaid with rich, creamy-white porcelain.  Porcelain is made from the glass family and is literally sprayed over the cast iron at temperatures reaching 2,000°F. The porcelain can be broken, but with great difficulty.  It's hardened to last a lifetime and beyond.  These porcelain tubs fall into two categories:

Antique Porcelain Tubs


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Unfortunately, the porcelain tubs that were manufactured in the U.S. a hundred years ago have almost disappeared.  You don’t have to be an archaeologist to discover them, but you do have to search.  They’re often found in pastures used as watering troughs, or as a huge flower pot.  Too often, they’re just left outside to rust and weather.  If you’re fortunate enough to find one of these, they’re usually in poor condition.  Many of these old tubs date back to the early 1900s.  They sometimes will have porcelain missing or have significant chips that require painstaking repair.  Also, one or more of the cast iron legs have probably been lost or broken.  Quite of few of the old tubs were thrown out when fiberglass became popular and have had to endure the weather for many years.  The heat, cold, and abuse can make them seem worthless, although some companies specialize in restoring them.  They spray a new finish on the tubs and they can become quite attractive.

New Production Porcelain Tubs


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Since foundries are no longer manufacturing these cast iron and porcelain tubs in the U.S., buyers have had to go to dealers who import them from foreign countries where they’re still made. These are reproductions of the antique ones, but you gain the advantage of newly cast tubs.  The porcelain is brand new, with the shine and smooth texture of ceramic.  You can find these tubs in attractive and useful designs, such as Roll-rimmed, Slipper, Double Slipper, Dual-ended, and Pedestals.  These tubs can make any bathroom look like one belonging to royalty.  These beautiful soaking tubs are purchased by those who want their home to look like a palace, without having to pay a king’s ransom to purchase them.   

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The pedestal tubs sit on a skirt or apron that raises the tub an additional six to eight inches off the floor, making it a true centerpiece of excellence.  The clawfoot-legged tubs sit upon the feet of designs emulating the feet of animals such as the eagle, bear, and lion.  The legs are made of chrome, brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze.  If you’re looking for something to really make your bathroom stand out, you needn’t look any further than today’s elegant cast iron and porcelain tubs.

In this article, I discussed many of the structures that the King Herod the Great had constructed in his ancient kingdom in Israel and Egypt.  In particular, I highlighted his ornate, large bathtub. I then went on to point out that today, people can still have a taste of regal opulence by installing a cast iron, porcelain clawfoot bathtub in their homes. 

If you found this article interesting, please share and forward. If you’d like to leave a comment or question, please do so in the Comments section below. 

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Have a question?  Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed below and I’ll personally get back to you. Thanks for reading; it’s my pleasure to share this information with you. 

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Alan Knight is the owner of Tub King, Inc., and  in Jacksonville, Florida. He has many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. His companies not only provide superior products, they are also award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. To contact Tub King directly, call (800) 409-3375, (800)843-4231 or email

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