The Antonia Fortress at Herod's Temple
Herod's palace fortress, named the Antonia after his friend Mark Antony was the place Jesus was no doubt tried before Pontius Pilate. During the time of Jesus there was a garrison of Roman soldiers who were stationed at the fortress of Antonia. It was northwest of the Temple area. Along the northern side of the temple courtyard on a high hill stood the massive palace – the fortress of Antonia, another of Herod's landmarks. 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 within the temple compound. 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 Jewish kingship and had made the office of high priest appointive, always subject to Roman approval. Nonetheless, in Jesus' day the high priest remained the most powerful figure in the Jewish nation.