The Antonia Fortress was a military barracks built around 19 BC by Herod the Great in Jerusalem on the site of earlier Ptolemaic and Hasmonean strongholds, named after Herod's patron Mark Antony. The fortress was built at the eastern end of the great wall of the city (the second wall), on the northeastern side of the city, near the Temple Mount and the Pool of Bethesda.
Although many modern reconstructions often depict the fortress as having a tower at each of four corners, the historian Josephus repeatedly refers to it as the tower Antonia, and stated that it had been built by John Hyrcanus for storing the vestments used in the Temple. However Josephus states:
"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, while that at the south-east angle rose to seventy cubits and so commanded a view of the whole area of the temple."
Some archaeologists are of the opinion that the fortress was only a single tower, located at the south-east corner of the site; for example, Pierre Benoit, former professor of New Testament studies at the École Biblique, having carried out extensive archaeological studies of the site, concurs and adds that there is absolutely no support for there having been four towers
Josephus placed the Antonia at the Northwest corner of the colonnades surrounding the Temple. Modern depictions often show the Antonia as being located along the North side of the temple enclosure. However, Josephus' description of the siege of Jerusalem suggests that it was separated from the temple enclosure itself and probably connected by two colonnades with a narrow space between them. Josephus' measurements suggest about a 600 foot separation between the two complexes.
The Antonia was destroyed in 70 AD by Titus' army during the siege of Jerusalem. Titus captured the fortress as a precursor to attacking the Temple complex. He had the Antonia leveled to allow passage of siege materials to the temple.
Site of Pilate's Praetorium?
Traditionally, it has been thought that the vicinity of the Antonia Fortress later became the site of the Praetorium, and that this latter building was the place where Jesus was taken to stand before Pilate (see Pilate's court). However, this tradition was based on the mistaken assumption that an area of Roman flagstones, discovered beneath the Church of the Condemnation and Imposition of the Cross and the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, was the pavement (Greek: lithostratos) which the Bible describes as the location of Pontius Pilate's judgment of Jesus; archaeological investigation now indicates that these slabs are the paving of the eastern of two 2nd century Forums, built by Hadrian as part of the construction of Aelia Capitolina. The site of the Forum had previously been a large open-air pool, the Strouthion Pool, which was constructed by the Hasmoneans, is mentioned by Josephus as being adjacent to the Fortress in the 1st century, and is still present beneath Hadrian's flagstones; the traditional scene would require that everyone was walking on water.
Like Philo, Josephus testifies that the Roman governors stayed in Herod's Palace while they were in Jerusalem, and carrying out their judgements on the pavement immediately outside it; Josephus indicates that Herod's palace is on the Western Hill (Upper City) and it has recently (2001) been rediscovered under a corner of the Jaffa Gate citadel. Archaeologists now therefore conclude that in the 1st century, the Praetorium – the residence of the governor (Praetor) – was on the Western Hill, rather than the Antonia Fortress, on the diametrically opposite side of the city.
Ernest L. Martin asserts a controversial claim in his book, "The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot", that the Ophel Mound is the site of the First and Second Temples and what is called the Temple Mount today was in fact the Roman Fort Antonia. His work set off a firestorm of discussion because Martin asserted that the Temple Mount was not the location of the last Temple. This work had even more importance due to the prior relationship between Martin and Herbert W. Armstrong whose editorial in The Plain Truth magazine had been cited by Denis Michael Rohan for his excuse to set fire to the Al Aqsa mosque during the 1960s.
The basis of this work began with the first visit by Martin to Jerusalem in 1961 when he first met Benjamin Mazar and later his son Ory Mazar, who informed him of his belief that the Temples of Solomon and Zerubbabel were located on the Ophel mound to the north of the original Mount Zion on the southeast ridge. Ory Mazar informed Martin that his father had also inclined to this belief before his death. In 1996 Martin wrote a draft report to support this theory. He wrote: "I was then under the impression that Simon the Hasmonean (along with Herod a century later) moved the Temple from the Ophel mound to the Dome of the Rock area."
However, after studying the words of Josephus concerning the Temple of Herod the Great, which was reported to be in the same general area of the former Temples, he then read the account of Eleazar who led the final contingent of Jewish resistance to the Romans at Masada which stated that the Roman fortress was the only structure left by 73 CE "With this key in mind, I came to the conclusion in 1997 that all the Temples were indeed located on the Ophel mound over the area of the Gihon Spring".
From these conclusions Martin produced his book in which he asserted that the Temples of Jerusalem were located over the Gihon Spring and not over the Dome of the Rock. He wrote: "What has been amazing to me is the vast amount of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian records that remain available from the first to the sixteenth centuries that clearly vindicate the conclusions that I have reached in this book of research."
- Herodian architecture
- Ptolemaic Baris
- Hasmonean Baris
- Via Dolorosa, the Antonia Fortress is its starting point
- Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 18:4:3
- B.J. v. 238
- Pierre Benoit, The Archaeological Reconstruction of the Antonia Fortress, page 89, in Jerusalem Revealed (edited by Yigael Yadin), (1976)
- Pierre Benoit, The Archaeological Reconstruction of the Antonia Fortress, in Jerusalem Revealed (edited by Yigael Yadin), (1976)
- John 19:13
- Josephus, Jewish War 5:11:4
- Pierre Benoit, The Archaeological Reconstruction of the Antonia Fortress, page 87, in Jerusalem Revealed (edited by Yigael Yadin), (1976)
- Josephus, Jewish Wars, 2:14:8
- Josephus, Jewish Wars, 5:2
- Ernest L. Martin, The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, Paperback: 485 pages by Academy for Scriptural (February 1994) in English. ISBN 0-945657-95-1 and ISBN 978-0-945657-95-8
- Martin, Ernest L. '"The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot."(2000). p.iv ISBN 0-945657-95-1