Used now only of royal dwellings, although originally meaning
simply (as the Latin word palatium, from which it is derived,
shows) a building surrounded by a fence or a paling. In the
Authorized Version there are many different words so rendered,
presenting different ideas, such as that of citadel or lofty
fortress or royal residence (Neh. 1:1; Dan. 8:2). It is the name
given to the temple fortress (Neh. 2:8) and to the temple itself
(1 Chr. 29:1). It denotes also a spacious building or a great
house (Dan. 1:4; 4:4, 29: Esther 1:5; 7:7), and a fortified
place or an enclosure (Ezek. 25:4). Solomon's palace is
described in 1 Kings 7:1-12 as a series of buildings rather than
a single great structure. Thirteen years were spent in their
erection. This palace stood on the eastern hill, adjoining the
temple on the south.
In the New Testament it designates the official residence of
Pilate or that of the high priest (Matt. 26:3, 58, 69; Mark
14:54, 66; John 18:15). In Phil. 1:13 this word is the rendering
of the Greek praitorion, meaning the praetorian cohorts at Rome
(the life-guard of the Caesars). Paul was continually chained to
a soldier of that corps (Acts 28:16), and hence his name and
sufferings became known in all the praetorium. The "soldiers
that kept" him would, on relieving one another on guard,
naturally spread the tidings regarding him among their comrades.
Some, however, regard the praetroium (q.v.) as the barrack
within the palace (the palatium) of the Caesars in Rome where a
detachment of these praetorian guards was stationed, or as the
camp of the guards placed outside the eastern walls of Rome.
"In the chambers which were occupied as guard-rooms," says Dr.
Manning, "by the praetorian troops on duty in the palace, a
number of rude caricatures are found roughly scratched upon the
walls, just such as may be seen upon barrack walls in every part
of the world. Amongst these is one of a human figure nailed upon
a cross. To add to the 'offence of the cross,' the crucified one
is represented with the head of an animal, probably that of an
ass. Before it stands the figure of a Roman legionary with one
hand upraised in the attitude of worship. Underneath is the
rude, misspelt, ungrammatical inscription, Alexamenos worships
his god. It can scarcely be doubted that we have here a
contemporary caricature, executed by one of the praetorian
guard, ridiculing the faith of a Christian comrade."