Flavius Josephus was a first-century Jewish writer, an aristocrat of priestly heritage. This excerpt is taken from his book called “War” – a historical narrative written in Greek which preserves the author’s first-hand account describing Jerusalem Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE – “Memories of the Temple Courts”.
(184) Now this temple, as I have already said, was built upon a strong hill. At first the plain at the top was hardly sufficient for the holy house and the altar, for the ground about it was very uneven, and like a precipice; (185) but when king Solomon, who was the person that built the temple, had built a wall to it on its east side, there was then added one cloister founded on a bank cast up for it, and on the other parts the holy house stood naked; but in future ages the people added new banks, and the hill became a larger plain… (189) wherein they made use of stones of forty cubits in magnitude; for the great plenty of money they then had, and the liberality of the people, made this attempt of theirs to succeed to an incredible degree; and what could not be so much as hoped for as ever to be accomplished, was, by perseverance and length of time, brought to perfection.
(190) Now, for the works that were above those foundations, these were not unworthy of such foundations; for all the cloisters were double, and the pillars to them belonging were twenty-five cubits in height, and supported the cloisters. These pillars were of one entire stone each of them, and that stone was white marble; (191) and the roofs were adorned with cedar, curiously graven. The natural magnificence, and excellent polish, and the harmony of joints in these cloisters, afforded a prospect that was very remarkable; nor was it on the outside adorned with any work of the painter or engraver. (192) The cloisters [of the outmost court] were in breadth thirty cubits, while the entire compass of it was, by measure, six furlongs, including the tower of Antonia; those entire courts that were exposed to the air were laid with stones of all sorts.
(193) When you go through these [first] cloisters, unto the second [court of the] temple, there was a partition made of stone all round, whose height was three cubits: its construction was very elegant; (194) upon it stood pillars, at equal distances from one another, declaring the law of purity, some in Greek, and some in Roman letters, that “no foreigner should go within that sanctuary;” for that second [court of the] temple was called “the Sanctuary;”… (197) Beyond these fourteen steps there was the distance of ten cubits: this was all plain, (198) whence there were other steps, each of five cubits a piece, that led to the gates, which gates on the north and south sides were eight, on each of those sides four, and of necessity two on the east; for since there was a partition built for the women on that side, as the proper place wherein they were to worship, there was a necessity of a second gate for them: this gate was cut out of its wall, over against the first gate…
(201) Now nine of these gates were on every side covered over with gold and silver, as were the jambs of their doors and their lintels; but there was one gate that was without [the inward court of] the holy house, which was of Corinthian brass, and greatly excelled those that were only covered over with silver and gold. (202) Each gate had two doors, whose height was severally thirty cubits, and their breadth fifteen… (206) Now there were fifteen steps, which led away from the wall of the court of the women to this greater gate; whereas those that led thither from the gates were five steps shorter.
(207) As to the holy house itself, which was placed in the midst [of the inmost court], that most sacred part of the temple, it was ascended to by twelve steps; and in front its height and its breadth were equal, and each a hundred cubits, though it was behind forty cubits narrower; for on its front it had what may be styled shoulders on each side, that passed twenty cubits farther. (208) Its first gate was seventy cubits high, and twenty-five cubits broad; but this gate had no doors; for it represented the universal visibility of heaven, and that it cannot be excluded from any place…
(210) but that gate which was at this end of the first part of the house was, as we have already observed, all over covered with gold, as was its whole wall about it; it had also golden vines above it, from which clusters of grapes hung as tall as a man’s height; (211) but then this house, as it was divided into two parts, the inner part was lower than the appearance of the outer, and had golden doors of fifty-five cubits altitude, and sixteen in breadth; (212) but before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; (213) for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. (214) This curtain had also embroidered upon it all that was mystical in the heavens, excepting that of the [twelve] signs, representing living creatures. (Flavius Josephus, War 5.184–214)