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Herod's Temple - Northern wall

Bible overview
The Fortress of Antonia and northern Temple entrance.
Contributed by Bible Scenes
Story also available on our translated website: Spanish
On the north-west corner of the Temple with a view over the Temple Mount was the Roman Fortress of Antonia. <br/>It was built by Herod the Great and named after his friend Mark Antony, as a fortress whose chief function was to protect the Second Temple. Traditionally, many believed that the vicinity of the Antonia Fortress was the site of Pontius Pilate’s praetorium, where Jesus was tried for high treason. Others argue the location of that trial was in the Herodian Palace at the opposite end of the city. – Slide 1
Josephus writes, ‘The general appearance of the whole was that of a tower with other towers at each of the four corners; three of these turrets were fifty cubits high (25m or 82ft), while that at the south-east angle rose to seventy cubits (37m or 122ft) and so commanded a view of the whole area of the temple.’ <br/>Josephus tells us that the Antonia Fortress was built on a rock 25 metres above the Temple Mount floor platform. – Slide 2
Adjacent to the fortress on the north-west corner was the Strouthion Pool that supplied the fortress with water. During the siege of Jerusalem in 70AD the Romans built a siege ramp in this pool to get access to the fortress and the Temple Mount. – Slide 3
The walls of the fortress were 4m (13ft) thick. Archaeologists suggest the fortress was 112m (368ft) by 40m (131ft) on the outside, signifying a 3300 square metre floor area, enough for a small garrison of soldiers who were supplemented with a legion of soldiers during the Jewish holiday feasts. – Slide 4
The Bible speaks about the Antonia Fortress as a barracks (Acts 21:37) and it was here that Paul gave an address to the people. – Slide 5
The Romans stored the high priest's vestments within the fortress. These garments were only worn on Passover, Yom Kippur and other important feast days. <br/>The Romans realised the power of the office of High Priest and kept custody of his garments as a precautionary matter. – Slide 6
The inside of the fortress, according to Josephus, had ‘all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing and broad spaces for camps.’ – Slide 7
Josephus observed, ‘on the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guard went several ways among the cloisters, with their arms, on the Jewish festivals, in order to watch the people, that they might not there attempt to make any innovations (rebellion).’ – Slide 8
Roman soldiers could get a good view of all the activities taking place on the Temple Mount. – Slide 9
At the time of the feast, when thousands of Jewish pilgrims entered the Temple, they were always on guard to prevent a riot or rebellion. – Slide 10
There were steps from the Antonia Fortress down to the Court of the Gentiles in the north-west corner of the Temple should the Roman soldiers need to deal with any incident. It is most probable that it was down these steps that Roman soldiers came to rescue the Apostle Paul from an angry mob (Acts 21:16-25). – Slide 11
Josephus also mentions the north wall had one entrance and this must have been positioned between the Antonia Fortress and the nearby Pool of Israel. – Slide 12
This gate gave people access to the Northern side of the Temple Mount to enter the Court of Gentiles. – Slide 13
On the eastern end of the north wall was the Pool of Israel (or Birket Israil). This was a public cistern built by the Romans for use as a water reservoir. <br/>It formed Jerusalem's largest reservoir, measuring 109.7 m (360 ft) by 38.4 m (126 ft) with a maximum depth of 26 m (85 ft). – Slide 14
The cistern contained a total capacity of 120,000 cubic metres and for centuries it formed part of Jerusalem's rainwater storage system. The pool also served as a moat, protecting the defensively vulnerable northern wall of the Temple Mount. – Slide 15
This is the view of the Temple Mount from the north-east corner. You can see the Court of Gentiles from the northern side and the Soreg barrier wall that Gentiles were not allowed to pass through. Beyond that is the northern gate giving access to the raised ‘Hel’ platform on which the sanctuary and its courts were built. – Slide 16
Slide 17