The Fortress of Antonia at Herod's Temple
Herod's palace fortress, named the Antonia after his friend Mark Antony was the
place Jesus was no doubt tried before Pontius Pilate. During the time of Jesus
there was a garrison of Roman soldiers who were stationed at the fortress of
Antonia. It was northwest of the Temple area.
Along the northern side of the temple courtyard on a high hill stood the
massive palace – the fortress of Antonia, another of Herod's landmarks. A
stairway and an underground passageway connected the Antonia with the Court of
the Gentiles, and the 600 soldiers stationed there were always on the alert for
disturbances within the temple compound. The precious ceremonial robes of the
high priest were kept in one of its four guard towers and were released only on
important religious feast days.
The Romans had taken custody of the garments as a precautionary measure.
Realizing the tremendous power of the high priest's office, they sought to limit
it by restricting the use of the robes, which symbolized its authority. In the
century before the Roman occupation in 63 BC, the king of Israel had also been
the high priest and both offices had been hereditary. The Romans had abolished
the Jewish kingship and had made the office of high priest appointive, always
subject to Roman approval. Nonetheless, in Jesus' day the high priest remained
the most powerful figure in the Jewish nation.