views updated


ANTONIA , fortress situated on a rocky prominence on the north side of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It replaced a number of earlier fortresses at this location: (1) the birah (the "Citadel") from the time of Nehemiah (Neh. 2:8; 7:2); (2) the Hellenistic acropolis or acra (2 Macc. 4:12, 27–28; 5:5–6) – not to be confused with the later *acra of the Seleucids, which was situated to the south of the Temple Mount; and (3) the baris of the Hasmonean period (Josephus, Antiquities xv, 403; Wars i, 75). A rock-cut tunnel leading from the direction of the later Struthion Pool probably fed a number of cisterns belonging to the Hellenistic/Hasmonean fortress at this location. A rock-cut fosse or ditch originally separated the area of the earlier fortresses from the enclosed temple area itself and was mentioned by Strabo (16, 2:40) and Josephus (Antiquities, 14: 61); it was eventually filled in by Pompey in 63 b.c.e. This rock-cut ditch (118 ft. in width and 20 ft. deep) was still visible to 19th-century explorers. As part of the major landscape changes to the area of the Temple esplanade in Jerusalem, Herod the Great decided to refortify the fortress and rename it in honor of Mark Antony. According to Josephus, it was situated at the corner of the northwestern colonnade of the Temple Mount, which meant that Herod was forced to reduce the area of the fortress quite substantially. Josephus relates that it stood on a rock 50 cubits (82 ft.) high, and its walls reached a height of 40 cubits. Inside the fortress were a palace, courtyards, bath houses, and cisterns. From three of its corners rose ornamental towers 50 cubits high, and from the fourth (southeastern) corner, a tower 70 cubits high. The fortress is believed to have stood at the junction of the "second" defensive wall of Jerusalem with the northwest angle of the Temple Mount, but archaeological proof of this has not yet been forthcoming; a deep rock-cut moat apparently protected it from the north, with underground stairs and passages connecting it to the south with the Temple area. This key position was captured by the Zealots on the 15th of Av, 66 c.e. During the siege of Titus the breach through which the Romans penetrated into the Temple area passed through Antonia. Earlier investigators believed that remains of the Antonia fortress could be detected in the grounds of the present convent of Notre Dame de Sion and that combined with the remains seen at the northwest angle of the Temple Mount area, it was deemed possible to reconstruct the plan of the entire fortress. New archaeological studies indicate this is no longer the case and that the area of the Antonia Fortress was restricted almost entirely to the rocky prominence (295 ft. × 131 ft.) at the northwest angle of the Temple Mount, with a flight of steps leading up to it from the south. Several Christian commentators have maintained that Antonia was the site of gabbatha (the stone pavement) mentioned in John (19:13) as the place where Pontius Pilate sat when Jesus was brought before him for judgment. However, it is now believed that the trial of Jesus occurred at the Praetorium, which was the same as the Old Palace of Herod the Great situated in the Upper City and to the south of the crucifixion area. The Antonia Fortress was apparently razed following the capture of the city by the Romans in 70 c.e. The Capitoline Temple may have been built at this location at the time of Hadrian, overlooking the northern market of Aelia Capitolina.


L.-H. Vincent and A.M. Steve, Jérusalem de l'Ancien Testament, 1 (1954), 193ff.; Marie-Aline de Sion, La Forteresse Antonia à Jerusalem et la Question du Prétoire (1955). add. bibliography: D. Bahat, "The Western Wall Tunnels," in: H. Geva (ed.), Ancient Jerusalem Revealed (1994); G.J. Wightman, "Temple Fortresses in Jerusalem. Part ii: The Hasmonean Baris and Herodian Antonia," in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 10 (1990–91), 7–35; J. Wilkinson, Jerusalem as Jesus Knew it (1979); D.M. Jacobson, "The Plan of Herod's Temple," in: Bulletin of the Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society, 10 (1990–91), 36–66; S. Gibson and D.M. Jacobson, Below the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (1996).

[Michael Avi-Yonah /

Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]