Last Days of Jerusalem: From Josephus - Alfred J. Church

Of the Walls of Jerusalem

The City of Jerusalem had three walls, save only where it was defended by valleys that no man could pass; there indeed it had one only. The first wall compassed the New City; the beginning of it was at the Tower Hippicos, and the ending at the valley of Cedron. This King Agrippa built, for before his days the New City was without defence. But fearing the Emperor—in those days Claudius Csar was Emperor—lest he should be suspected of rebellion, he did not finish it according to his purpose. And indeed, if it had been so finished, it had been such that no man could have taken it. For the stones whereof it was built, being twenty cubits long, and ten cubits broad, could not easily be undermined or shaken with the battering rams. The height of it, when King Agrippa left building, was ten cubits only; but the Jews afterwards raised it to twenty cubits, adding thereto battlements and pinnacles, so that the measure of the whole was twenty-and-five cubits. The third wall, which is also the old wall, being the wall of the City of Sion, had its beginning in that corner of the Temple which looked to the north-west, and passed thence to the Tower Hippicos, and from the tower compassed the Upper City, along the valley of Hinnom, having its ending in the corner of the Temple that looked to the south-east. As for the second wall, it was built from the old wall, and had its ending at the Tower of Antony; and it compassed the Lower City.

On these walls there were towers, twenty cubits broad, and twenty in height, very strongly built and of beautiful stones, so that the Temple itself was not more fair. On every tower were chambers well furnished, and cisterns for rain. Of these towers the first wall had ninety, and the second fourteen, and the third sixty. Now the compass of the whole City was thirty-and-three furlongs.

The Tower of Antony stood at the corner of the Temple which looked to the north-west, being built upon a rock that was fifty cubits in height, and steep on all sides. It was the work of King Herod the Great, nor did he ever build anything more wonderful and magnificent. The face of the rock was cased with smooth stones; which thing was done both for the sake of ornament and also that no man might be able to ascend or descend thereby. Round the edge of the rock was a wall of three cubits, and within the wall the tower itself, having a height of forty cubits. Very wonderful was the tower both for greatness and for beauty, being divided into chambers of all kinds and fit for all uses; for it had halls, and cloisters, and baths, and courts that were convenient for the disposing of soldiers, so that it was as a city, for the number and variety of the things which it contained, and as a palace for its magnificence. On each corner also it had a tower, of which three were of the height of fifty cubits, and the fourth, being that which was near to the Temple, and looking to the south and the east, seventy-and-five cubits, so that a man could see from it the whole Temple. From this were steps to the cloisters that looked to the north and to the west, by which steps the soldiers that were on guard could go down when there might be occasion, for there were always soldiers in the tower; and these were especially diligent to watch the people on the feast days. For as the Temple was the fort of the City, so was the Tower of Antony the fort of the Temple.

As for the Temple, it was four-square, of a furlong each way. On two of its sides the rock served for a wall, and on two a wall was built; nor was the height in any place less than three hundred cubits; and certain of the stones that were used in the building were forty cubits in length. Round about the Temple were double cloisters, built upon pillars of white marble, very bright to look upon, and of the height of twenty-and-five cubits. And the roof of the cloisters was of cedar, and the whole circuit of these cloisters, together with the Tower of Antony, was six furlongs. Within were open courts paved with all manner of stones of divers colours. The outermost of these courts was the Court of the Gentiles, having about it a wall of stone, very cunningly made, and in this wall pillars whereon was written in letters of Greek and Latin, "LET NO STRANGER ENTER THE HOLY PLACE." (For the Inner Court was counted holy.) They that entered it ascended by fourteen steps, and after the steps was a space of ten cubits. Round about the Court was a wall of twenty-and-five cubits. And all about this Court also were cloisters. On the west it had no gate, but on the north four, and on the south four, and on the east two. Of these gates the most wonderful by far was the Beautiful Gate, being of the height of fifty cubits and of the breadth of forty cubits, and made wholly of Corinthian brass. Within this Court was the Holy Place, and before it a great porch, and in the porch, with twelve steps going up thereto, a gate, but with no doors thereto, by which it was signified that the heavens are not shut. And through this gate could be seen the gate of the Holy Place, having over it the golden vine, whereon were clusters of the bigness of a man's body. Over the doors of this gate there hung a Babylonian curtain, of blue and yellow and scarlet and purple; and by the blue was signified the air, and by the yellow the earth, and by the scarlet fire, and by the purple the sea. On this curtain also was wrought the likeness of the heavens. In this Holy Place were the candlestick with seven branches (and the number of the branches was seven because there are seven planets); and the table of the shewbread, whereon were twelve loaves, because the number of the months is twelve; and the altar of incense, with incense of thirteen kinds, whereby it was signified that the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof. Last of all was the Holy of Holies, wherein there was nothing; nor was it lawful for any man to enter it nor to look therein.

Without, the Temple was covered with great plates of gold, which glittered in the sun; and on the plates were great spikes, very sharp, that birds might not settle thereon.