Channels and levels
950 BC - 135 CE
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Located between the Temple and the Moat
Temple Mount View from the West
I have already established that Josephus wrote that Fort Antonia was located on the highest hill. There are a few more key questions that when answered will tell us the exact location of Fort Antonia. The best way to understand where the fort was located is to read through Josephus' account.
How big was the temple compound and Fort Antonia altogether?
Josephus says it was "six furlongs, including fort Antonia"
The Wars of the Jews, Book 5, Ch 5
2. ...........The cloisters [of the outmost court] were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was by measure six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts.
With this lower placement of the Temple compound and also the placement of Fort Antonia on the Dome of the Rock platform the measurement all the way round is 6 furlongs just as Josephus said it was. According to Josephus the Temple compound alone was 4 furlong around, that is approximately 600 x 600, but when Fort Antonia was included in the Temple complex, together it was s 6 furlong around. So Fort Antonia was also a square of 600 x 600.
It is interesting to trace the changes in the area from the time that Nehemiah rebuilt the city wall all the way up to when Josephus describes Fort Antonia as it was before the destruction of 70 AD. If we begin with the north wall described by Nehemiah with the Tower Meah and Tower Hananeel as the towers protecting the Temple from a northern attack.
The above map is as it would have been during the Time of Nehemiah
Below is First Century
The Meah fortress was built upon under the Hasmoneans during the late 2nd century BCE and renamed the Baris. It was rectangular and possessed several high towers, one of which was known as "Straton's Tower". The Baris was connected to the Temple Mount by an underground passageway. The Baris was besieged by Herod the Great during his Siege of Jerusalem in 63 BCE, during which one of its towers was felled by Roman siege engines. Under Herod the Great, the Hasmonean Baris underwent renovation or reconstruction, and it was renamed Antonia in honor of his patron Mark Antony.
This allows for Fort Antonia to be placed on the old north wall that Nehemiah rebuilt. Recently coins from the 1st century were found under the west wall of the Temple Mount that we see today. This means that Herod the Great did not build the west wall of toady's Temple Mount. It was built by his grandson or great grandson, many years after Herod the Great finished Fort Antonia and the Temple. The west wall of today was built into the Tyropeon Valley. The old west wall was built on the edge of that valley.
It is my belief that the walls of Fort Antonia were at a Northwest angle to the Temple. The reason is because of the steps at the northwest corner of the platform of the Dome of the Rock. The bottom step is not a step at all. It is the top of a very old wall. That wall is angled and my red dashed line in the below map, showing the old west wall, follows that same angle. (Since this step was discovered it has been covered up by the Muslims- but was well documented beforehand.)
How was the fort attached to the Temple compound?
Flavius Josephus in 93 C.E.
War of the Jews Book 5, Chp. 5
Josephus Flavius regarding Tower of Antonia;
8. Now as to the tower of Antonia, it was situated at the corner of two cloisters of the court of the temple; of that on the west, and that on the north; it was erected upon a rock of fifty cubits in height (75 feet high), and was on a great precipice; (steep hill) it was the work of king Herod, wherein he demonstrated his natural magnanimity.
on the corner where it joined to the two cloisters of the temple, it had passages down to them both, through which the guard (for there always lay in this tower a Roman
legion) 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;
Josephus quoted an old
Jewish prophecy that said "When the Temple becomes four-square once again then will
the temple and city be destroyed."
War of the Jews Book 6, 2, 9
they set the north-west cloister, which was joined to the tower of Antonia, on fire, and after that brake off about twenty cubits of that cloister, and thereby made a beginning in burning the sanctuary; two days after which, or on the twenty-fourth day of the forenamed month, [Panemus or Tamuz,] the Romans set fire to the cloister that joined to the other, when the fire went fifteen cubits farther. The Jews, in like manner, cut off its roof; nor did they entirely leave off what they were about till the tower of Antonia was parted from the temple,
With this act the Temple was once again four-square.
Rendition of the Temple
Herod had built the new temple prior to the birth of Jesus, but the new walls of Herod's extended courts were built by Herod's decedents during the first century. When Jesus visited the Temple during His ministry (26-30 AD) the extended courts were still under construction and were not finished until 66 AD. Before the new walls were completed Herod's Temple and new buildings remained within the old walls of the former Temple, as shown in the digital painting below.
Fort Antonia contained the citadel, a tower or fortress, which was within other towers, as described by Josephus. In other words a fortress within a fortress. He leaves 600 x 600 feet to be the size of the whole area belonging to Fort Antonia by telling us that the Temple was 6 furlong around, including Fort Antonia. This is how I showed it be in my digital painting above.
War of the Jews Book 6, 2. 5. As Josephus explained these things from the mouth of Caesar, both the robbers and the tyrant thought that these exhortations proceeded from Titus's fear, and not from his good-will to them, and grew insolent upon it. But when Titus saw that these men were neither to be moved by commiseration towards themselves, nor had any concern upon them to have the holy house spared, he proceeded unwillingly to go on again with the war against them. He could not indeed bring all his army against them, the place was so narrow;
6. ....... Now, it so happened, that this fight was for the most part a stationary one, wherein the soldiers went on and came back in a short time, and suddenly; for there was no long space of ground for either of their flights or pursuits. But still there was a tumultuous noise among the Romans from the tower of Antonia, who loudly cried out upon all occasions to their own men to press on courageously,
7. In the mean time, the rest of the Roman army had, in seven days' time, overthrown [some] foundations of the tower of Antonia, and had made a ready and broad way to the temple. The one bank was over against the north-west corner of the inner temple another was at that northern edifice which was between the two gates; and of the other two, one was at the western cloister of the outer court of the temple; the other against its northern cloister.
The Roman's had taken Fort Antonia and at this point in the battle seems to have been fighting within the narrow strip of land between the southern wall of Fort Antonia and the northern wall of the Temple. This is the strip of land that the colonnades spanned, (connecting the Temple to Fort Antonia at the Temples west and north walls) but once of the stones of wall of Fort Antonia were overthrown making a broad way for his army then Titus was able to defeat the Jews and take the Temple.
Was there a low wall surrounding the Rock creating a platform?
.....In the first place, the rock itself was covered over with smooth pieces of stone, from its foundation, both for ornament, and that any one who would either try to get up or to go down it might not be able to hold his feet upon it.
This would mean the sides of the 74 foot hill was covered with smooth stones so that if anyone try to climb up to the fort they would slip on the smooth stone and not be able to get up the steep hill to the base of the Fort.
Next to this, and before you come to the edifice of the tower itself, there was a wall three cubits high; (4.5 feet high) but within that wall all the space of the tower of Antonia itself was built upon, to the height of forty cubits (60 feet).
A 4.5 foot wall surrounded the upper part of the hill and the fort was built within that wall. This would mean that land fill was placed within the bounders of this low wall to create a flat spot to build the Fort.
What were the dimensions?
Flavius Josephus Antiquities Book 15
4. Now on the north side was built a citadel, whose walls were square, and strong, and of extraordinary firmness. This citadel (Baris) was built by the kings of the Asamonean race, who were also high priests before Herod, and they called it the Tower, in which were reposited the vestments of the high priest, which the high priest only put on at the time when he was to offer sacrifice.
...............But for the Tower itself, when Herod the king of the Jews had fortified it more firmly than before, in order to secure and guard the temple, he gratified Antonius, who was his friend, and the Roman ruler, and then gave it the name of the Tower of Antonia.
(Josephus Flavius regarding Tower of
Antonia, the height of the fortress and its towers.
Josephus continues speaking of Fort Antonia:
War of the Jews Book 5, Chp. 5
8. ......The inward parts had the largeness and form of a palace, it being parted into all kinds of rooms and other conveniences, such as courts, and places for bathing, and broad spaces for camps; insomuch that, by having all conveniences that cities wanted, it might seem to be composed of several cities, but by its magnificence it seemed a palace. And as the entire structure resembled that of a tower, it contained also four other distinct towers at its four corners; whereof the others were but fifty cubits high; whereas that which lay upon the southeast corner was seventy cubits high, that from thence the whole temple might be viewed;
· The rock on which the fortress was built was 50 cubits high (74 feet) (We can assume he was measuring from Barkley gate which was street level in the Tyropeon valley ,which is approximately 50 cubits lower than the rock inside the Dome. Barkley gate 721.3 M (2366.4 feet) above sea level. Rock 743.7 M (2440.0 feet) above sea level)
· The height of the fortress itself was 40 cubits (58 feet)
· and it had 4 other towers, one in each corner.
· The height of three of the towers was 50 cubits (74 feet) and the fourth (southeast corner) tower was 70 cubits (102 feet - one could see inside the Temple fortress from that tower)
Antonia Fortress was a military fortification and Josephus said that the whole
Fortress of Antonia appeared as one tower.
Measurement increments used in the map and drawing above.
1 cubit = Hebrew (short) = 44.5 cm = 17.5"
Royal cubit = Hebrew (long) = 51.8 = 20.4"
Roman cubit = 44.4 cm = 17.4"
1 cubit = 50.0 cm. = 19.8
the length of the cubit according to Warren
furlong 600+ feet Stadium 607 feet riz 600 feet = 182.8 meters
8. .......for the temple was a fortress that guarded the city, as was the tower of Antonia a guard to the temple; and in that tower were the guards of those three (14).
What valley's were on the East and West of the fort?
gave the details;
Where was the moat and on which side of the moat was the fort built on?
A ditch nearly 200 feet long
The Dome of the Rock theory places the Fort on the wrong side of the moat!
War of the Jews Book 5 Chapter 4
2. .................... It was Agrippa who encompassed the parts added to the old city with this wall, which had been all naked before; for as the city grew more populous, it gradually crept beyond its old limits, and those parts of it that stood northward of the temple, and joined that hill to the city, made it considerably larger, and occasioned that hill, which is in number the fourth, and is called "Bezetha," to be inhabited also.
It lies over against (across from) the tower Antonia, but is divided from it by a deep valley, which was dug on purpose, and that in order to hinder the foundations of the tower of Antonia from joining to this hill, and thereby affording an opportunity for getting to it with ease, and hindering the security that arose from its superior elevation; for which reason also that depth of the ditch (moat) made the elevation of the towers more remarkable. This new-built part of the city was called "Bezetha," in our language, which, if interpreted in the Grecian language, may be called "the New City."
Josephus, in his description of the siege of the Temple by Pompey, BC 63, says that the Roman
Commander found it impossible to attack it on any other quarter than the north, on account of the frightful ravines on every other side; and that even on this side (north side) he had to fill up "the fosse (moat) and "the whole of the ravine, which lay on the north quarter of the Temple;" and in the description of
the siege of the Temple by Herod, BC 38, 37, he says, that Herod made the attacks in the same manner as did Pompey, that is, from the north side of it.
When he comes to the description of the siege by Titus, AD 70,
the Temple with its enclosure, and the tower of Antonia at the north-west angle
of the enclosure, having been entirely rebuilt by Herod, BC 17, Josephus
says that the design of Titus was
"to take the Temple at the tower of Antonia;" and that for this
purpose he raised great banks; one of which was at the tower of Antonia,
and the other at about 20 cubits from it; and that for the purpose of
obtaining materials or filling up the immense fosse and ravine to the north of the Temple, he had to bring them from a great distance; and that
the country all round for a distance of 19 or 12 miles was made perfectly bare
is a quote from the web page of by Lambert Dolphin and Michael Kollen
1. Where was the Antonia Fortress?
Ancient Jerusalem was protected on the east, south, and west by valleys. The Antonia Fortress was located to the north to protect the weaker north side of the city. (In fact, it was from the north that Titus Vespasian breached the walls in his famous attack in 70 C.E.)
According to ancient sources, the fortress was on a hill about 25 meters high. The current El Omriah school building is on a rock only 5 meters high. From many stratographic and other considerations it is doubted by some experts that this was the actual location of the Antonia Fortress. Tuvia Sagiv's papers discuss the critical issue of the actual location of the Fortress Antonia, which he believes was well to the south, perhaps at the location of the Dome of the Rock.
2. The Location of the Ancient North Moat (the Fosse)
Traditional renderings show a deep, filled-in fosse (moat), north of the Temple Mount, lying south of the Antonia Fortress, between the fortress and the Temple Mount.
According to ancient sources, however, the Antonia Fortress and the Temple Mount were adjacent to each other. The moat should be to the north of the Tower for protection, placing the Antonia about where the Dome of the Rock stands today! End quote
The Straight Joint
From the south-east corner of the present-day Temple Mount, the eastern wall shows Herodian masonry for some 106 feet. At that point a seam, or straight joint, is visible, to the north of which Hasmonean masonry appears followed by the oldest masonry believed to perhaps be that of Hezekiah. All of the upper courses of the wall are muslim.
The Secret Passage
THE ANTIQUITIES OF THE JEWS
Book 15, Chapter 11
7. There was also an occult (underground) passage built for the king; it led from Antonia to the inner temple, at its eastern gate; over which he also erected for himself a tower, that he might have the opportunity of a subterraneous ascent to the temple, in order to guard against any sedition which might be made by the people against their kings.
Description of a passage
Cistern No. V, under platform to the south-east of the "Dome of the Rock," descended; 48 feet deep, 2 feet water. This cistern has a curious cruciform shape; at the eastern end a low doorway cut in the rock leads to a flight of steps, which after ascending some distance in a southerly direction, turns sharp off to the east, and communicates with a subterranean passage; the passage is covered by a semicircular vault, and at its entrance to the cistern are the remains of a doorway; on the floor there was a thick slimy deposit, and a few yards beyond the doorway the opening was blocked up by earth; there are two openings to the cistern in use and one closed, below one of the former a rough basin has been made to collect the water from the different branches. No conduit could be seen entering the cistern; the roof of the south-eastern branch is of rock, but there was not sufficient light to see what that of the other portion was made of.
The Akra info
city was built upon two hills, which are opposite to one another, and
have a valley to divide them asunder; at which valley the corresponding rows of
houses on both hills end.
Of these hills,
that which contains the upper city is much higher, called the "Upper Market-place."
But the other hill, which was called "Acra," and sustains (gaurds over) the lower city, is of the shape of a moon when she is horned;
across from this there was a third hill, but naturally lower than Acra, and parted formerly from the other by a broad valley.
However, in those times when the Asamoneans reigned, they filled up that valley with earth, and had a mind to join the city to the temple. They then took off part of the height of Acra, and reduced it to be of less elevation than it was before, that the temple might be superior to it.
Now the Valley of the Cheesemongers, as it was called, and was that which we told you before distinguished the hill of the upper city from that of the lower, extended as far as Siloam; for that is the name of a fountain which hath sweet water in it, and this in great plenty also. But on the outsides, these hills are surrounded by deep valleys, and by reason of the precipices to them belonging on both sides they are every where unpassable.
North of the Temple
The Baris, had also occupied a location overlooking the Temple's precincts. Although the exact location of the Baris is still debated, it is generally accepted to have stood north of the Temple Mount on the site later occupied by the Antonia Fortress.
Baris fell to Antiochus III the
Great (198 BC taking it from the Egyptians) and is absent from all accounts
of Maccabean Revolt. Despite the narratives which have the Acra constructed
within a very short time-span, it was nevertheless formidable enough to weather
long periods of siege. These factors, coupled with references in which the
Baris was itself called an acra, have led some to suggest that the Baris and
the Acra were in fact the same structure.
Although both 1 Maccabees and Josephus seem to describe the Acra as a new construction, this may not have been the case. Antiquities of the Jews 12:253 may be translated to give the sense that the "impious or wicked" had "remained" rather than "dwelt" in the citadel, which could be taken to mean that the Acra had been standing before the revolt and that only the Macedonian garrison was new.
30 years later; The Acra was a fortified compound in Jerusalem built by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, ruler of the Seleucid Empire, following his sack of the city in 168 BC. The fortress played a significant role in the events surrounding the Maccabean Revolt and the formation of the Hasmonean Kingdom. It was destroyed by Simon Maccabeus during this struggle.
then took off part of the height of Acra, and reduced it to be of less
elevation than it was before, that the temple might be superior to it.)
Pompey (63 BC)
years later; When Pompey arrived in Jerusalem, he surveyed the city: for
he saw the walls were so firm, that it would be hard to overcome them; and that
the valley before the walls was terrible; and that the temple, which was within
that valley, was itself encompassed with a very strong wall, insomuch that if
the city were taken, that temple would be a second place of refuge for the
enemy to retire to. (Josephus, The Wars of the Jews 1:141)
Fortunately for Pompey, Hyrcanus II still had supporters in the city. They opened a gate, probably situated in the northwestern part of the city wall, and let the Romans in. This allowed Pompey to take hold of Jerusalem's upper city, including the Royal Palace, while Aristobulus' party held the eastern portions of the city—the Temple Mount and the City of David. The Jews consolidated their hold by breaking down the bridge over the Tyropoeon Valley connecting the upper city with the Temple Mount. Pompey offered them the chance to surrender, but when they refused, he began prosecuting the siege with vigour. Pompey had his forces construct a wall of circumvallation around the areas held by the Jews and then pitched his camp within the wall, to the north of the Temple. Here stood a saddle allowing access to Temple, and it was therefore guarded by the citadel known as the Baris, augmented by a ditch (moat).
The troops then set about filling the ditch protecting the northern part of the Temple enclosure and building two ramparts, one next to the Baris and the other on the west, while the defenders, from their superior position, sought to hinder Roman efforts. When the banks were complete, Pompey erected siege towers and brought up siege engines and battering rams from Tyre. Under the protection of slingers driving the defenders from the walls, these began to batter the walls surrounding the Temple. After three months, Pompey's troops finally managed to overthrow one of the Baris' towers and were able to enter the Temple precinct, both from the citadel and from the west.
himself entered the Temple's Holy of Holies which only the High Priest was
allowed to enter, thereby desecrating it. He did not remove anything, neither
its treasures nor any funds, and the next day ordered the Temple cleansed and
its rituals resumed. Pompey then headed back to Rome, taking Aristobulus with
him for his triumphal procession.
The siege and conquest of Jerusalem was a disaster for the Hasmonean kingdom. Pompey reinstated Hyrcanus II as the High Priest but stripped him of his royal title, though Rome recognize him as an ethnarch in 47 BC. Judea remained autonomous but obliged to pay tribute and dependent on the Roman administration in Syria.