|ANTONIA, TOWER OF |
names a fortress near the Temple built around A.D. 6 that served as a palace residence for King Herod, barracks for the Roman troops, a safe deposit for the robe of the high priest, and a central courtyard for public speaking. The tower of Antonia is not mentioned directly in the Bible. It served various functions between A.D. 6 and A.D. 66, the time of its destruction by Titus. Herod the Great built the tower at the northwest corner of the Temple court to replace the Maccabean fort. The tower was 75 feet high and was named for Herod's friend, Mark Anthony. Although the name “Antonia” is not used in the Bible, several references from the first century Jewish historian, Josephus, describe the appearance and function of the tower of Antonia.
Josephus describes the splendor of the tower with spacious apartments, elaborate baths, and beautiful courtyards. The tower served as an official residence for the Roman procurators. Capable of accommodating at least a Roman cohort (500-600 men), the tower housed portions of the Roman army used to guard the Jews inside the Temple court. Herod required that the vestments of the high priest be kept in the tower to maintain control over the worship festivals of the Jews.
The pavement beneath the modern convent of Notre Dame de Sion has been thought to be the place of the tower's courtyard, traditionally considered the site of Jesus' trial before Pilate (John 19:13). Recent archeological evidence, however, has shown that the pavement dates from the second century and not the time of Jesus.
Linda McKinnish Bridges