ANTONIA, CASTLE OF
A fortified structure in Jerusalem serving both as an official residence of Roman procurators and as a soldiers’ quarters. According to Josephus it had apartments, baths, barracks and courtyards.
The Castle of Antonia was situated at the NW corner of the temple court and evidently occupied the site where Nehemiah earlier had constructed the Castle or fortress mentioned at Nehemiah 2:8. Herod the Great did extensive and costly repair work on it and increased its fortifications. Previously known as the Baris, Herod named it Antonia in honor of Mark Antony. As the Jewish high priest and ruler John Hyrcanus had done before him, Herod had the priestly garments kept there, apparently as a means of maintaining a certain check or control on the high priest.
The fortress was built on a rocky eminence about seventy-three feet (22.3 meters) high. It had stone walls more than fifty-eight feet (17.8 meters) high and four corner towers, three of them about seventy-three feet (22.3 meters) high and the other, at the SE corner overlooking the whole temple area, over a hundred feet (31.2 meters) high. Prior to Herod’s time the fortress served primarily against incursions from the N, but thereafter it mainly served as a point of control over the Jews and a means of policing the activities in the temple area, to which there was direct access from the fortress.
The square layout of the fortress would indicate that it had a central court. Some believe that it was in such a central court within this castle that Jesus appeared before Pilate for judgment. (John 19:13) A stone pavement found in this area is suggested, therefore, to be that referred to as “Gabbatha.” Others, however, believe that Jesus’ judgment by Pilate took place before Herod’s palace.
A more certain reference to the Castle of Antonia is that recorded in the account at Acts 21:30-40 and 22:24. Paul appears to have delivered his defense and witness to a religious mob from the steps of the fortress and thereafter was taken into the soldiers’ quarters for examining. Probably Paul was returned to this place after his stormy session with the Sanhedrin and was here when his nephew came to warn him of the conspiracy against his life.—Acts 23:10, 16.
The Castle of Antonia came to final ruin when it was destroyed along with the temple and city by Roman General Titus in 70 C.E.