Double Gate, Temple of Herod, Temple Mount, 1st century AD
Jews from all over the Roman Empire came to the Jerusalem Temple to present their offerings three times a year, if they could make it. Approached climbing a grand staircase, the Double Gate served as one of the two southern entrances one could use to walk under the Royal Basilica through a long tunnel and out into the vast Temple court. For this image I relied on a photo taken on the same spot as the illustration indicates. Since the staircase has been largely rebuilt on the archaeological site, that photo gave me the correct angle and proportions of the staircase as well as the way it relates to the massive wall, the southern enclosure wall of the Temple, that now consists of stone blocks from various periods of the past 2000 years. Only the lowest course of the southern wall at the top of the staircase survives as original Herodian masonry, the rest was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD along with the rest of the Temple.
Of the Double Gate itself, the right half can be seen today, whose opening is walled up, but the left half is behind Crusader fortifications. There was a broad walkway at the top of the stairs along the entire southern wall. I determined the width and pacing of the pilasters (half columns) of the Basilica on the basis of large stone blocks of pilasters toppled over by the Romans which were discovered at the foot of the wall recently so their dimensions are known. We know pilasters like these from the Cave of Machpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hebron where the Herodian masonry survives almost to the full height but the pilasters here are much taller and wider.
The stairs terminate on the right against a large building whose function remains a matter of speculation. At the bottom of the stairs a number of miqvaot (ritual baths for Jews) were discovered. Jewish males intending to enter the Temple proper with their sacrificial animals had to immerse themselves there before they could proceed to the Double Gate. Jewish holidays under Roman rule were potentially explosive times and there were armed Roman guards posted at the top of the stairs to make sure orderly behavior is maintained.read more