The Tower of Antonia, which will be remembered as occupying two-thirds of the sacred area on Mount Moriah, was originally a castle built by the Macedonians. Afterwards, John Hyrcanus erected the castle into a fortress for the defence of the Temple, and in his day it was considered impregnable to assault; but when Herod came with his bolder genius, he strengthened its walls and extended them, leaving a vast pile which included every appurtenance necessary for the stronghold he intended it to be forever; such as offices, barracks, armories, magazines, cisterns, and last, though not least, prisons of all grades. He levelled the solid rock, and tapped it with deep excavations, and built over them; connecting the whole great mass with the Temple by a beautiful colonnade, from the roof of which one could look down over the courts of the sacred structure. In such condition the Tower fell at last out of his hands into those of the Romans, who were quick to see its strength and advantages, and convert it to uses becoming such masters. All through the administration of Gratus it had been a garrisoned citadel and underground prison terrible to revolutionists. Woe when the cohorts poured from its gates to suppress disorder! Woe not less when a Jew passed the same gates going in under arrest! With this explanation, we hasten to our story.
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The order of the new procurator requiring a report of the persons in custody was received at the Tower of Antonia, and promptly executed; and two days have gone since the last unfortunate was brought up for examination. The tabulated statement, ready for forwarding, lies on the table of the tribune in command; in five minutes more it will be on the way to Pilate, sojourning in the palace up on Mount Zion.
The tribune’s office is spacious and cool, and furnished in a style suitable to the dignity of the commandant of a post in every respect so important. Looking in upon him about the seventh hour of the day, the officer appears weary and impatient; when the report is despatched, he will to the roof of the colonnade for air and exercise, and the amusement to be had watching the Jews over in the courts of the Temple. His subordinates and clerks share his impatience.
In the spell of waiting a man appeared in a doorway leading to an adjoining apartment. He rattled a bunch of keys, each heavy as a hammer, and at once attracted the chief’s attention.
“Ah, Gesius! come in,” the tribune said.
As the new-comer approached the table behind which the chief sat in an easy-chair, everybody present looked at him, and, observing a certain expression of alarm and mortification on his face, became silent that they might hear what he had to say.
“O tribune!” he began, bending low, “I fear to tell what now I bring you.”
“Another mistake- ha, Gesius?”