Antiochus IV’s Acra Fortress in Jerusalem Has Purportedly Been Found

History has remembered the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 BC) as one of the greatest villains of antiquity. In 167 BC, he outlawed Judaism, desecrated the Jerusalem temple by sacrificing swine on its altar, and set up an image of himself in the guise of Zeus in its courts. His persecution was the culmination of the pressure that Hellenism was exerting over Judea at the time. This pushed conservative Jews to breaking point, and sparked the Maccabean Revolt. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabeus, the Jewish nation successfully overthrew Seleucid sovereignty and established a Jewish commonwealth that lasted a century until the arrival of Rome’s celebrity general, Pompey (63 BC).

A coin (tetradrachm) of Antiochus IV minted in Acco-Ptolemais (c. 167 BC)

As part of his program to control Judea and provide a better launching platform for operations against Ptolemaic Egypt, Antiochus constructed a fortress in Jerusalem. This fortress was known as the ‘Acra’, from the Greek word ἄκρα (akra), meaning ‘citadel’ or ‘summit’. The term is seen in the word ‘Acropolis’, which means ‘fortified city’ or ‘city on the summit’. 1 Maccabees 1.33–36 gives us this account of Antiochus’ construction of the Jerusalem Acra:

Then they fortified the city of David with a great strong wall and strong towers, and it became their citadel. They stationed there a sinful people, men who were renegades. These strengthened their position; they stored up arms and food, and collecting the spoils of Jerusalem they stored them there, and became a great menace, for the citadel became an ambush against the sanctuary, an evil adversary of Israel at all times.

The Acra, then, housed a garrison of Seleucid Greek soldiers, and their cache of weapons. It was approximately 250 x 60 m in area, and towered tall enough to provide a vantage point for all activities being conducted in the Jewish temple. Understandably, it was viewed by conservative Jews as a symbol of oppression.

The exact location of Antiochus’ Acra has been a subject of debate. If it afforded a good view into the temple courts, it would seem to have been located either to the immediate north or west of the temple. Yet nothing has been forthcoming in excavations and surveys.

But now, it seems, the riddle has been solved.

Archaeologists excavating in the Giv’ati Car Park in the City of David (just south of the Old City of Jerusalem) have uncovered what they believe to be the remains of the Acra fortress. While the ruins have been exposed for some time now, archaeologists have only recently been able to understand their configuration properly. They are now quite confident that they have indeed located the Acra. Furthermore, this makes complete sense of the reference in 1 Maccabees to its location in the ‘City of David’.

Excavations at the Giv’ati Car Park, Jerusalem—the location of the Acra.

The surprising thing about this is that the Acra was located on ground that was a good deal lower than the Temple Mount. Yet, we must realise that the Temple Mount in the second century BC was lower than its current level. The Second Temple was renovated on a monumental scale by Herod the Great (beginning in 19 BC), and he built the massive retaining walls that achieved the levels we can observe today. But before Herod’s renovation, the temple was most likely sitting at a lower altitude (albeit on the same spot). In any case, the Acra was located at a lower altitude. Therefore, it must have been quite an imposing tower to provide the garrison with its vantage point into the temple complex.

The Acra is a very significant find, as it dominated the landscape of Jerusalem at a critical time of its ancient history. It will be interesting to see if archaeologists can determine whether construction of the Acra in 167 BC compromised previous levels of occupation (‘strata’) from earlier historical periods.

What eventually happened to the Acra?

Judas Maccabeus was able to take Jerusalem and besieged the Acra in the course of his campaign. Yet the garrison managed to hold out for quite some time. With the Greco-Syrian soldiers watching on, Judas rededicated the temple in December 164 BC (or January 163 BC, depending on calendrical calculations). This was the origin of the festival of Hanukkah. Judas and his successors, his brothers Jonathan and Simon, managed to fortify Jerusalem effectively against the garrison, eventually winning complete freedom for the Jewish nation. Simon besieged the garrison and starved them out in 142 BC. Josephus tells us what Simon then did with the Acra in Antiquities 13.6.7:

He… cast it down to the ground, that it might not be any more a place of refuge to their enemies, when they took it, to do them a mischief, as it had been till now. And when he had done this, he thought it their best way, and most for their advantage, to level the very mountain itself upon which the citadel happened to stand, that so the temple might be higher than it. And, indeed, when he had called the multitude to an assembly, he persuaded them to have it so demolished… so they all set themselves to the work, and levelled the mountain, and in that work spent both day and night without any intermission, which cost them three whole years before it was removed, and brought to an entire level with the plain of the rest of the city. After which the temple was the highest of all the buildings, now that the citadel, as well as the mountain whereon it stood, were demolished.

Here’s a news clip with some good visuals of the excavations.

Here is Israeli archaeologist, Doron Ben Ami, speaking about the discovery of the Acra:

You can also read further articles on the discovery by clicking the following links:

http://greekcurrent.com/a-2000-year-old-greek-fortress-has-been-unearthed-in-jerusalem/

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/11/03/us-archaeology-jerusalem-idUSKCN0SS1GD20151103?feedType=RSS&feedName=lifestyleMolt

Aerial view of Jerusalem today. The Givati Car Park, where the Acra was discovered, is located in the very centre of the picture.

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11 thoughts on “Antiochus IV’s Acra Fortress in Jerusalem Has Purportedly Been Found

  1. Hello George.

    I found your website whilst searching for aerial photographs of Jerusalem. You will find the type of photo I’m looking for in these two pdfs. The photos reveal how few buildings there were on the Eastern Ridge/City of David, say 60 years ago?

    http://www.askelm.com/temple/t130901.PDF

    http://www.askelm.com/temple/t111219.pdf

    Both the Givati parking lot & the area of the Ophel where Eilat Mazar excavated two years, were covered in weeds back then.

    http://www.keytodavidscity.com/rich-history-unearthed-in-jerusalem-gold-treasure-with-jewish-menorah-found-near-temple-mount/

    You note that the Acra was built on lower ground than the location currently called Temple Mount,
    however I’ve not yet seen any calculations as to how much lower the summit was 200 years before Herod the Great started his construction work up there. He didn’t finish it.

    The Israeli Antiquities Authority press release in November 2013 ended with the words “This dramatic find confirms Josephus’ descriptions which state that it was only during the reign of King Agrippa II (Herod’s great-grandson) that the work was finished, and upon its completion there were eight to ten thousand unemployed in Jerusalem”.

    http://www.askelm.com/temple/t111219.pdf

    I am of the view that however tall the Acra might have been, circa 168 BCE, it would not have overlooked nor controlled any structures that might have stood even on a lower summit of TM, but It would have certainly been taller than any structures within the City of David, such as what was the site of Solomon’s palace & the Second Temple.

    No warlike mediaeval society that I am aware of located its places of worship outside the walls of a city. Certainly not in Britain nor Europe once the Vikings started their seaborne raids in 792 CE. The Israelites captured the Jebusite city from circa 1000 BCE & held it against many enemies. Sticking the most important edifice of a society on top of a barren, impossible to defend hill outside the city wall & who are surrounded by is just asking for trouble. It’s madness & goes against all sound military doctrine. The discovery of the Acra is more evidence that the Temples were situated over the living waters of the Gihon spring, rising from the Kidron Valley. When the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in 70 CE, not one stone was left standing on another, because the gold melted into the foundations & the Romans demolished the Second Temple & razed the City of David to get it.

    In War of the Jews: Book 7 – Chapter 8 Flavius Josephus reported the speech given by Eleazar, the Leader at Masada: …. Where is this city that was believed to have God himself inhabiting therein? It is now demolished to the very foundations, and hath nothing but that monument of it preserved, I mean the camp of those that hath destroyed it, which still dwells upon its ruins; some unfortunate old men also lie upon the ashes of the temple, and a few women are there preserved alive by the enemy, for our bitter shame and reproach. Now who is there that revolves these things in his mind, and yet is able to bear the sight of the sun, though he might live out of danger? Who is there so much his country’s enemy, or so unmanly, and so desirous of living, as not to repent that he is still alive? And I cannot but wish that we had all died before we had seen that holy city demolished by the hands of our enemies, or the foundations of our holy temple dug up after so profane a manner.

    After the destruction of the City of David: Flavius Josephus wrote: … NOW as soon as the army had no more people to slay or to plunder, because there remained none to be the objects of their fury, (for they would not have spared any, had there remained any other work to be done,) Caesar gave orders that they should now demolish the entire city and temple, but should leave as many of the towers standing as were of the greatest eminency; that is, Phasaelus, and Hippicus, and Mariamne; and so much of the wall as enclosed the city on the west side. This wall was spared, in order to afford a camp for such as were to lie in garrison, as were the towers also spared, in order to demonstrate to posterity what kind of city it was, and how well fortified, which the Roman valor had subdued; but for all the rest of the wall, it was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came thither believe it had ever been inhabited. This was the end which Jerusalem came to by the madness of those that were for innovations; a city otherwise of great magnificence, and of mighty fame among all mankind.

    And truly, the very view itself was a melancholy thing; for those places which were adorned with trees and pleasant gardens, were now become desolate country every way, and its trees were all cut down. Nor could any foreigner that had formerly seen Judaea and the most beautiful suburbs of the city, and now saw it as a desert, but lament and mourn sadly at so great a change. For the war had laid all signs of beauty quite waste. Nor had anyone who had known the place before, had come on a sudden to it now, would he have known it again. But though he [a foreigner] were at the city itself, yet would he have inquired for it.

    But Caesar (Titus) resolved to leave there, as a guard, the tenth legion, with certain troops of horsemen, and companies of footmen. So, having entirely completed this war, he was desirous to commend his whole army, on account of the great exploits they had performed, and to bestow proper rewards on such as had signalized themselves therein. He had therefore a great tribunal made for him in the midst of the place where he had formerly encamped, and stood upon it with his principal commanders about him, and spake so as to be heard by the whole army in the manner following……

    So, if Temple Mount was not the site of the Temples, what was it used for? We know Herod built a fortress for a Roman Legion circa 19 BCE. He called it the Antonia after his friend Mark Anthony. The site or the ruins currently identified as the Antonia to the NW of TM & is far too small to have garrisoned 8000+ soldiers & support personnel. It was the fortified gatehouse guarding the steps that led up to TH and the main barracks. The Antonia was also supposed to have overlooked the Temple. Assuming the Herodian structure north of the Seam was the Antonia Fortress, it would have overlooked the Temple on the Ophel. It remained in use by the Romans as a garrison for anothe 200 years. Later evidence leads one to suppose that the structure south of the Seam was built not during Herodian times, but by Justinian the Great as foundations of his Nea Church some five hundred years later and that Solomon’s temple and Herod’s Temple were built in the most logical place of all, over the Gihon Spring & safely within the walls of the City of David, just 600 feet down the road.

    http://naturalsolutionsradio.com/blog/natural-solutions-radio/who-built-wailing-wall-150-not-herod

    Yours truly,

    Perry

    • Perry, I don’t find your argument convincing. I don’t think anyone suggests the temple on the TM would have been unwalled. That would not make sense. It was almost certainly walled, even before Herod developed the site. Yes, Herod rebuilt the place on a massive scale, but he didn’t move the temple. And even though it wasn’t fully completed until c. AD 62, its location is quite secure. The Acra need only have a tall tower or two to be able to overlook the pre-Herodian TM, or at least its entrances. And in any case, its position along with the configuration of the walls of Jerusalem do, in fact, make sense of a temple on the TM. The Acra would have guarded the approaches to the temple, and therefore created something of a controlling bottleneck. While its position is initially surprising, it actually does make good sense when we think about it.

      No, the Antonia couldn’t have garrisoned 8,000 soldiers, but where are you getting that figure from? That’s more than an entire legion, which is more than Judea handled. So I don’t think it needs to have held 8,000 soldiers. Furthermore, after Herod, the Romans held his palace on the Western Hill, and cohorts would have been stationed there, in addition to the Antonia. In any case, Caesarea was the main station of Roman soldiers in the region. All in all, I don’t see how your argument overturns the consensus of the location of the temple.

  2. George, you don’t have to believe everything that you read in the writings attributed to Josephus.
    You should remember that these writings were either written by or edited by Romans. Thus Antiochus sacrificing swine on Jewish altars was a later creation of Roman historians, and anti-Greek propaganda. Antiochus was a supporter of priests and animal sacrifice. He wanted all Jews to submit and sacrifice, so that there would be consistency among Jews. But there was another group of Jews (prophets) for whom animal sacrifice was abhorrent. Mattathias and his sons (ex priests) didn’t want to sacrifice because they didn’t believe in it. Prophets worshiped at the altar of incense. Judas cleansed the temple by getting rid of the altar for burnt offerings.

    • Geoff, I read Josephus taking into account his bias. Steve Mason’s research on Josephus’ purpose and bias is very informative, and shows that he wasn’t simply writing pro-Roman stuff, but was rather aiming to rehabilitate the reputation of Jews in a post-Revolt (AD 66–70) world.

      Of course Antiochus IV had his own agenda, but your description of the factions in Judaism doesn’t match up with the historical sources related to the period. If Judas Maccabeus, as the successor to his father, Mattathias, was against sacrifice, why on earth did he reinstitute sacrifice with the rededication of the temple in late 164 BC? The factionalism in Judaism at the time was not really along prophetic-v-priestly lines. That’s taking a particular Hegelian view espoused by Wellhausen in the 19th century, construing it through the work of Paul Hanson, and then overriding the overwhelming testimony of the sources. The factions were, to put it in somewhat simplistic terms, progressive (generally pro-Hellenistic) and conservative (generally pro-Torah). I don’t find your proposal to be in line with any of the historical sources.

        • Hi Geoff! I find the claim that Mattathias and his sons found animals sacrifice abhorrent unconvincing. If it were the case, why did Judas and his brothers rebuild the altar in the temple and then offer multiple types of sacrifice on it in rededication (1 Macc 4)? To me that doesn’t make sense with an attitude that sought to abolish sacrifice.

          • George, why after pulling down the altar did they store the stones in a fitting place on the temple hill? (1 Mac. 4:46) This was supposed to have been a polluted altar not worth saving. Also the writer appears to be anti-prophet since he implies that there isn’t a prophet around who could be consulted about the stones. Of course the writer was writing well after the event, probably in or around the time of the second century CE. He was re-writing Jewish history, obliterating the prophets and establishing Jewish priests as rabbis. Mason is wrong.

            I suggest that this is a fabricated story that recalls a real event which was the purging of the temple by Judas. He pulled down the altar because he opposed the sacrifice of animals as a means of forgiveness.

            It would also have suited the Romans to have the Greek Antiochus depicted as a tyrant who persecuted the Jews. In fact Antiochus only persecuted one part of the Jewish nation which was those with a prophetic belief. Antiochus was on the side of the priests who thought that the prophets were ‘seekers of smooth things’.

            Antiochus never raided the temple for its gold and treasure.. The priests took the treasure and hid it when they realised Judas was coming to purge the temple. The Copper Scroll tells the places where they hid the treasure. If you wonder why no-one has discovered any treasure, it is probably because Judas recovered most of it.

            Under Antiochus’s persecution, the worship of the sanctuary at the altar of incense was transferred to a multitude of altars (mis-named idol altars in 1 Maccabees). The Migdal altar is one such altar.

            • Hi Geoff! I do see where you’re going with this, and I understand the perspective you’re bringing. I agree with you on the deep divisions within Judaism at this time. I think that this was as much a factor in the conflict as Antiochus’ policies. However, I remain unconvinced that Mattathias and his sons, who were priests, were anti-sacrifice. The reconstruction you’ve proposed rests on silence—there is no positive evidence for it. Rather, it depends on the sources being fabricated, and I don’t think they are in this case. While all historiography is necessarily a re-writing of some kind, in that it puts forward a perspective with bias and subjectivity, etc., I don’t think the dots join up as you’ve proposed. Your reconstruction is possible, but I don’t think plausible, and not probable. 1 Maccabees is evidently pro-Maccabean/Hasmonean, so why does it need to fabricate an event (rededicating an altar of animal sacrifice) that is apparently completely at odds with what they stood for (no animal sacrifice)? This seems incongruent to me. Furthermore, dating 1 Maccabees to the second century AD goes against much of the evidence. Indications strongly suggest a Hebrew original text from the late second century BC—I’d say c. 105 BC. Roman perspectives on Antiochus would have been fairly tangential to the author’s purpose, even though they seem to have coincided. That is, the book wasn’t written for a Roman audience, but a Jewish one.

              I think we’ll probably continue to differ on this. Nevertheless, thanks for the interaction. I’ll let you have the final word here if you desire to have it. Cheers!

              • George,
                After defeating Antiochus IV’s generals, the priests were driven into exile from the temple and from Jerusalem. The priests later wrote: “Behold an accursed man, a man of Satan, has risen to become a fowler’s net to his people, and a cause of destruction to all his neighbours. And his brother arose and ruled, both being instruments of violence. They have rebuilt Jerusalem and have set up a wall and towers to make it a stronghold of ungodliness …in Israel and a horror in Ephraim and in Judah. They have committed an abomination in the land, and a great blasphemy among the children of Israel. They have shed blood like water upon the ramparts of the daughter of Zion and within the precincts of Jerusalem.” (4Q175, Vermes). The two rulers were Judas and his brother Jonathan. Judas was later rehabilitated as a Jewish hero by Josephus, a priest, while he was working for Vespasian.

                According to Avigad, it was Jonathan who began to build this wall. It expanded Jerusalem to the Western Hill and cut off the Acra which was then superfluous. Simon eventually completed the wall. (See page 331 of The Quest). He later flattened the Acra.

                From Judas onwards no high priests were appointed (despite what one may read). All that is ever reported is the appointment of a high priests. These appointments are clearly fictitious interpolations. They are usually authorised by Roman elite, reflecting their power.

  3. Hello George,

    Rediscovered your site. We now know that Robinson’s Arch & the street running below were not constructed until at least 20 years after Herod’s death, because in 2011, 17 bronze coins, including 4 coins struck by the Roman procurator of Judæa, Valerius Gratus in the years 17/18 AD, were found mixed in dirt rammed into a Mikveh cut into rock, beneath the first course of blocks laid at the south end of the Western Wall & another 8 metres below that excavated street surface.

    Let’s begin in 41 BC. Mark Anthony named Herod & his brother Phaesel as Tetrarchs to support the Ethnarch & High Priest Hyrcanus ll. Antigonous, the last authentic Hasmonean monarch objected. Parthians from Persia came to his aid & captured Hyr canus ll & cut off his ears. Phaesel dashed out his own brains, rather than be handed to Antigonous. Herod fled to Rome & was unexpectedly appointed King of the Jews by the Senate. Herod returned with foreign mercenaries & he also had the use of three Roman legions in order to capture Antigonous, whom he handed over for execution by his patron Mark Anthony in 37 BC. Herod then assumed the throne.

    As an urgent priority, a Roman legion had to be garrisoned in Jerusalem, so Herod expanded a small Hasmonean citadel, called the Baris, into a typical, immense Roman fort & named it for his patron Mark Anthony. Herod spent lavishly & lived in the Antonia Fortress for 10 years whilst his magnificent royal palace was built by the Jaffa Gate. The Antonia Fortress would have exceeded 35 acres in size; to be capable of housing 6,000 or more soldiers, just like other typical Roman camps. Legions comprised 5,500 legionnaires plus auxilliaries & a contingent of cavalry. A legion also required support staff.

    Josephus described the Antonia Fortress as being “erected upon a rock of fifty cubits in height” on a “great precipice” & 80 feet above the Temple. It had “all kinds of rooms & other conveniences, such as courts & places for bathing, & broad spaces for camps, such that it had all the conveniences of cities & seemed it was composed of several cities.” It had four towers, the S. East being 115 feet high & the others 80 feet. A glacis of smooth stones covered its slopes.

    Mark Anthony was defeated by his co-ruler Octavian, at the battle of Actium in 31 BC & he committed suicide a year after. Having judiciously changed sides, Herod was welcomed by Octavian in Rhodes that same year & re-confirmed as King. Octavian declared himself Augustus Caesar, the first Roman Emperor in 27 BC. These events happened well before Herod began the enlargement of the Temple that started, according to Josephus, in the 18th year of Herod the Great’s reign; around 22 BC, if counted from 37 BC.

    We are told that the Antonia Fortress dominated the Temple to its south. If trouble erupted in the Temple, Roman soldiers were able to cross to the roofs of the Temple porticoes from the Fortress by means of two 660 feet long aerial bridges, whereupon they deployed around its four-furlong 800 metre perimeter. If need be, soldiers could shower arrows into the outer courts or descend via staircases to fight. Yet despite these informative descriptions from Josephus, who personally participated in the siege of Titus, traditionalists insist that this Small annexe fort is the Antonia Fortress. Even the fanciful Israel Museum model does not match Josephus’s descriptions.

    These depictions of Antonia Fortress are not as Josephus wrote, the size of “several cities”. Where are the glacis slopes & where are two aerial bridges that crossed both the steps & a plaza of 660 feet? These current traditionalist models don’t resemble a typical Roman camp in size, shape, or function, whereas, the 36-acre, walled Temple Mount does.

    During the defence of Herod’s Temple, those two aerial bridges were demolished by the Jewish defenders. This act fulfilled a prophecy: “When square the walls, the Temple falls.” Roman soldiers then hastened to construct siege banks against the Temple’s north wall. Battle lasted until they seized the sanctuary.

    Why did mention of these two aerial bridges, 660 feet long, disappear from the pages of recent history? They were in fact, mentioned in two 19th century books written by scholars Lewis, Sanday & Waterhouse, who probably read Josephus in the original Greek, whilst other writers, later relied on William Whiston, an 18th century translator. (9) We cannot know if Whiston was influenced by traditional thinking but he probably decided that Josephus had erred when he gave the length of the aerial roadways as a furlong, 220 yards or 660 feet, a Stadia, so Whiston used the words “no long space of ground”. War VI, 2, 144

    Based upon Jerusalem’s topography and it being impossible to place the Antonia Fortress 660 feet further north of the alleged Temple Mount, Whiston’s translation obscured their existence, although there are ten references in Josephus to these bridges. (10) Were it not for Dr. Ernest L. Martin’s ground breaking book, The Temples that Jerusalem Forgot, published in 2000, those bridges would still be forgotten today. & why is he right? Dr. Martin did read Josephus in the original Greek.

    Dr. Martin shows the two bridges & the steps to the plaza that separated the Temple standing in the City of David from Fort Antonia on Temple Mount. Dr. Martin’s details the actual relationship between Antonia Fortress and Herod’s Temple. He reconciled eyewitness descriptions that the Temple stood one Stadia (or 660 feet) south of Antonia Fortess inside the City of David & that the two complexes were connected by two aerial bridges. The Temple platform had its east wall descending precipitously deep into the Kidron Valley & was situated over a “gushing” perennial Gihon Spring. After the destruction of the Temple, the Antonia Fortress remained the only structure standing in 1st century Jerusalem & it would have garrisoned the 10th Legion Fretensis, for another 200 years, until Diocletion ordered them to leave Ae-lia Capi-tolina for Aela/Aqaba in 289 AD. The legion was still there in the 390s AD. (Notitia Dignitatum)

    The Jewish Encyclopedia argues that expanding the Temple took only 18 months, employing 1000 priests as masons & carpenters. Other sources suggest the Temple was inaugurated around 10 BC. Herod the Great’s kingdom became directly governed as the pagan Roman province of Judæa from 6 AD until 41 AD. The Romans might have been prepared to tolerate the Jews quietly worshipping in Herod’s Temple, completed circa 10 BC in the City of David, but allowing them to massively extend a religious site that was an affront to Roman gods? That’s not likely, is it? Thus, it would have been the Romans who continued to extend their Antonia Fort, with the work ceasing in 64 AD, in the reign of Herod Agrippa ll & 85 years after Herod the Great had started building it. From Josephus, we learn that there were over 8,000 unemployed construction workmen in Jerusalem when the construction finally stopped.

    Emperor Constantine the Great ended the persecution of Christians. When the Bordeaux Pilgrim visited Jerusalem in 333 AD, he wrote that looked east from an area in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre & he saw the Praetorium. He also reported he saw two equestrian statues of Hadrian that stood in the emperor’s temple to Jupiter Capitolina when he visited the Praetorium. However, he misidentified the second statue of Hadrian’s adopted successor, Antoninus Pius whose title was Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius. The statues were probably destroyed by the orders of Constantine. In 1033 AD, Jerusalem was shaken by a tremendous earthquake that caused widespread damage including damage to the Al Aqsa mosque & the collapse of the southern wall of Temple Mount. The only block found from the two statues has an inscription dedicated to Pius & this block was placed upside down in the wall during the rebuilding of the southern wall by the Muslims.

    The Al-Aqsa mosque was destroyed in an earthquake in 1927. As it was being rebuilt in 1937, the British archaeologist Robert Hamilton former Director of the British Mandate Antiquities Department, was able to photograph the remains of a Byzantine mosaic about half a metre under the floor of the damaged mosque. In his report, Hamiliton concealed these findings, because the Waqf would have found them difficult. In the 1990s, Muslim contractors excavated the SW area of Temple Mount, to build the Marwani mosque. This area, has been known since Crusader times as Solomon’s Stables, because the Templars stabled their horses there. Over 300 truckloads of earth were just dumped in the Kidron Valley & so the current Temple Mount Sifting Project started. Painstaking wet sifting of this earth has revealed thousands of interesting items.

    In 2008, Zachi Zweig, co-director of the Project, found Hamilton’s photographs. He noted the similarity with thousands of mosaic stones & fragments of column capitals & other marble artifacts, all from the Byzantine era (324 AD until 638 AD) that are still being found today. Professor Rina Talgum has since confirmed Hamilton’s mosaic as being dated to the Byzantine Roman era, probably from a church or monastery.

    http://www.israeldailypicture.com/2013/01/eureka-pictures-beneath-temple-mount.html

    http://jcpa.org/secrets-under-the-al-aqsa-mosque-a-photographic-essay/

    Zweig commented that: “The existence of a public building from the Byzantine period on the Temple Mount is very surprising in light of the fact that we do not have records of such constructions in historical texts. These findings have brought about an important revolution in the way we view the history of that period. They suggest that contrary to everything that has been written in the history books, the Temple Mount contained structures, a church or churches, during the Byzantine period. It was not empty and desolate, as was believed until now.”

    http://www.timesofisrael.com/unescos-jerusalem-resolution-ignores-christian-roots-too/

    Evidence is mounting all the time for an assessment for the role of Temple Mount. Things that were previously unthinkable become reality. The UK has Brexit & the US has President Trump; both being developments that I cheer & applaud.

    Anyway, best wishes to you,

    Perry

    • Perry, thanks for the detailed response. You’ve done a lot of investigation into this. Thanks for sharing it. However, your hypothesis doesn’t convince me for a few reasons. I simply don’t have time to go into all the details, but here are just a few points:

      (1) The description of the foundation of the Antonia fits with the area in the NW corner with which it’s traditionally identified. The topography fits. It doesn’t fit the Temple Mount.

      (2) The Antonia was connected not by bridges to the temple, but by tunnels. This is not unusual—we have evidence of tunnels leading from the south side of the Temple Mount up into the Court of the Gentiles.

      (3) The sanctuary building took only a few years to build, and then it was fully operational. The wider temple, however, went on being built right up until AD 62. The scale of it was known throughout the world, and was typical of Herod’s grandeur. Even Jesus’ disciples drew attention to it. And in Jesus’ day there was still construction occurring. The 80 odd years of construction make sense with the traditional Temple Mount site, but not for a smaller temple located on the Ophel.

      (4) The area of the Temple Mount contained the ruins of the temple for centuries, and the continuity of occupation ensured its location was always known. The Dome of the Rock was deliberately located over the position of the sanctuary.

      Cheers!

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