The current issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (Jan/Feb 2009) includes an article by Ehud Netzer on the size and location of the Antonia Fortress (teaser here). Built by Herod the Great, this imposing structure both protected the Temple Mount on its vulnerable northern side and it served as a convenient monitoring station for potential uprisings in the Temple area. When Paul was accused of bringing a Gentile beyond the Court of the Gentiles, a riot began. Paul’s life was spared by Roman officials who arrested him and took him to the Antonia Fortress (Acts 21:27-22:29).
Netzer is a renowned scholar, whose work on the Herodian sites of Jericho, Herodium, Caesarea, Jerusalem and elsewhere has led some to dub him “Mr. Herod.” He realized a lifelong dream in 2007 with the discovery of King Herod’s tomb. He has not excavated in the area of the Antonia Fortress because the Muslim authorities forbid any scholarly activity on the Temple Mount.
Leen Ritmeyer, a Temple Mount scholar, yesterday posted a response to Netzer’s article on the Antonia Fortress. Ritmeyer believes that Netzer is mistaken both with regard to the size and shape of the building. As always, Ritmeyer has beautiful and helpful illustrations. The second diagram in his post reveals the existing remains of the fortress (in yellow). The photo below shows the rock scarp and some of the Herodian masonry (on right).