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Antonia Fortress

Herod's palace fortress, named the Antonia for his benefactor Mark Antony was the place Jesus may have been tried before Pontius Pilate. In Jesus' time a battalion of Roman soldiers were stationed there. It was northwest of the Temple area. Along the northern side of the temple courtyard on a high hill stood the massive palace - fortress of Antonia, another of Herod's landmarks. It was also the ancient citadel Baris, rebuilt and strengthened. 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 in the temple precincts. 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 kingship and had made the office of high priest appointive, always subject to their approval. Nonetheless, in Jesus' day the high priest remained the most powerful figure in the Jewish nation.

Steps led up from the Temple court to the citadel (Paul standing on the stairs, Acts 21:40)