Stephen recalls a scene that Joyce undoubtedly experienced in Paris: the crush of stockbrokers and visitors in the "Paris stock exchange" or Bourse (now known as Euronext Paris), which is located in the Palais Brongniart, a 19th century copy of the "temple" of Vespasian in Rome.
Gifford observes that Stephen is remembering the interior of the hall, not the entrance. The "steps" on which "the goldskinned men" are standing "under maladroit silk hats" are "the parquet, at the end, a railed-off space which the sworn brokers . . . are alone privileged to enter." He is quoting from Baedeker's 1907 Paris and Its Environs, which also advises visitors that admission is free but "the crush is anything but pleasant."
Thornton argues that the crush of stockbrokers in the temple "may recall the description of the moneychangers in the temple" in all four Christian gospels.