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History of The Antonia Fortress

An earlier tower constructed on this site may possibly go back to the time of King Solomon. According to Josephus Herod the Great built the Fortress of Antonia upon the site of an earlier Maccabaean fortress that was built by John Hyrcanus I (135-105 B.C.). The Hasmonean rulers had resided at the Baris (fortress) when they were performing priestly duties in the Temple. Pompey destroyed it in 63 B.C. Earlier Nehemiah had built a fortress at this site when he had rebuilt Jerusalem (Neh 2:8) and it was referred to as the "Tower of the Hundred" in Nehemiahís wall (Neh 3:1). There can be no doubt that king Solomon had also built a fortress at this site, because the northwest corner of the Temple area was the only hill, which rose high above the Temple area.


The Fortress of Antonia was partly surrounded by a deep ravine 165 feet wide. It functioned as headquarters for the Roman soldiers, a palace and a barracks. Herod constructed a secret passage from the fortress to the Temple and Josephus described that this is where Aristobulus was killed.

The Fortress of Antonia was built on a rock hill, which was much higher than the Temple area (75 feet), on the northwest side. The castleís 4 walls were interesting:
The western wall was built upon the edge of the cliff overlooking the Tyropoeon Valley.
The north wall was directly across the hill Bezetha and there was a deep mote between them. The rock hid the Temple from view on this side according to Josephus.
The southern wall one could see over the entire Temple area.
The eastern wall overlooked the Pool of Bethesda and the Kidron Valley.

Josephus is the authoritative source for the description of the Antonia Fortress and he wrote about its interior. It is described as a small city, a palace for a king and a barracks for many soldiers. There were apartments, cloisters, baths and large courtyards. There were also stairs that led down from the Fortress to the porticoes of the Temple court at the extreme north side. It is also written that there was a deep passageway underground, which went from the fortress to the Court of Israel, mainly for uprisings and emergencies.

When Titus initiated his extreme assault into the Temple area it was from the Antonia Fortress.

The Northwest Corner of the Temple (see picture below).

These photos are from an archaeological reproduction of first century Jerusalem, located in Jerusalem.


The Fortress of Antonia was built in 35 B.C. and named in honor of Herodís friend and Roman Triumvir Marcus Antonius also known as Mark Antony. It was actually Mark Anthony who had requested that the Senate make Herod King of Judea as an eastern boundary to the Roman Empire. At some point the Romans took over the Antonia Fortress and placed a garrison there.

Titus Vespasian attacked the city of Jerusalem from the north side in 70 A.D. and overcame it. The legions of Rome slaughtered over a million Jews and 95,000 Jewish captives were taken away as prisoners.