The Temple of Jerusalem contains 4 different courts; the Court of the Priests, the Court of Israel, the Court of the Women and finally the Court of the Gentiles. The Court of the Gentiles was the most outer Court encompassing the Temple. Despite the whole of the Temple being considered holy, this was the least holy court in the Temple.
The construction of the Temple in Jerusalem began in 20 BCE under the leadership of King Herod and was considered one of his most ambitious and greatest projects; the entire complex that was created under Herod was enclosed by the Court of the Gentiles. The Court covers about 35 acres which is much larger than that of the previous Temple in Jerusalem. The Court unlike before is of a rectangular shape compared to the former square shape, it is paved and enclosed by a wall on all four sides.
It was given the name of ‘Court of the Gentiles’ due to the fact that Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews) were permitted into that area of the Temple, they were allowed to walk around it but were forbidden to go any further (penalty for such intrusion was death).
Herod the Great began the work on the Second Temple of Jerusalem due to the significant natural decay as a result of assaults of hostile armies and because of his desire to become favourable in the eyes of the Jews. The project required a huge number of labourers amounting to around 10,000 as well as Herod having 1,000 priests, specially trained as carpenters and masons, to work on the construction of this huge project.
The purpose of the Court of the Gentiles was primarily for the use of travellers of other nations who would be allowed into the Court and therefore be around the Temple without intruding into holy areas. Often the Court of the Gentiles was considered as more of a social market place with vendors selling souvenirs, sacrificial animals, food as well as there being currency changers present.
Front page image: By Oren Rozen - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9722083