Fortifications and defensive walls

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Great Wall of China
Great Wall of China / Jakub Hałun, Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Outstanding ancient fortifications and defensive walls around the world

Below are listed some ancient fortifications (e.g. made by vanished cultures of more than 1000 years ago), which represent outstanding monuments of ancient military technologies:

Hadrian's Wall, United Kingdom
Hadrian’s Wall, United Kingdom / A.Cuerden, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Walls

  • Hadrian’s Wall – United Kingdom, stone and turf wall across England. Total length 117 km. Construction started in 122 AD by Romans
  • Great Wall of China – China, largest series of fortification in world with a total length 8900 km. Built in the 5th century BC – 16th century AD by Chinese
  • Sungbo’s Eredo – Nigeria, 160 km long ring-wall enclosing ancient land of Sungbo. Built sometimes around 1000 AD by local culture
  • Great Wall of Gorgan – Iran, 195 km long brick wall near Caspian Sea. Built in the 5th – 6th century AD by Persians
  • Limes Germanicus – Germany, Netherlands, simple earthern ramparts with a system of buildings. Total length 600 km. Built in 83 – 260 AD by Romans

Walled areas

  • Walls of Jericho – West Bank (Palestine), oldest known large scale city walls built in 7000 – 8000 BC.
  • Aurelian walls – Italy, Rome, up to 16 metres high walls stretching for 16 kilometres around Rome, built in 271 – 275 AD.
  • Chittorgarh Fort – India, Rajasthan. 13 km long walls in dramatic setting, enclosing an area of 280 ha. Built in the 7th century AD.
  • Lugo walls – Spain, Galicia. The only intact system of Roman built city walls in Europe, 10 – 15 meters high and 2,1 km long. Built in the 3rd century AD.

Fortresses

Sigiriya, Sri Lanka
Sigiriya, Sri Lanka / B.Gagnon, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
  • Sigiriya – Sri Lanka, Central Province. One of the most interesting monuments of urban planning worldwide. Sigirya was developed around and on the top of nearly 200 m high rock peak. The construction took place in 477 – 495 AD. Later, until the 13th or 14th century this city was used for Buddhist monastery. This complex includes several unique monuments – including a giant lion whose mouth serves as the entrance to rock fortress and beautiful frescoes – a masterpiece of world importance.
  • Masada (Massada) – Israel, South. Dramatic fortress/ refuge on top of table mountain, built in 37 – 31 BC, taken by Romans simultaneously with mass suicide of 960 defenders in 73 AD.
  • Por-Bazhyn – Russia, Tyva Republic. Prehistoric quadrangular fortress built on an island in the Tere-Hol lake, built by Uighurs.

Described fortifications and defensive walls

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Ankai-Tankai hill forts: 20.188325, 74.450715
Nusa Roviana hillfort and shrines: -8.353386, 157.322984
Morongo Uta: -27.615359, -144.353841
Østerlars Church, Bornholm: 55.171506, 14.961645
Mahasthangarh: 24.954602, 89.343003
Masada: 31.315692, 35.353891
Sveti Stefan: 42.255832, 18.891063
Gorakhgad hill fort: 20.193251, 74.423763

Definitions

Throughout history, efficient defense against military intrusions often has been the only way to save cities and states from otherwise inevitable destruction. To protect themselves, different civilisations have built some of the largest known structures on Earth – fortifications, defensive walls and military structures of diverse kind.

Aurelian walls - ancient fortifications in Rome, Italy
Aurelian walls – ancient fortifications in Rome, Italy / Lalupa, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Basically, fortifications consist of walls and ditches, which help the defenders withstand a siege. Walls are usually built of stone or bricks, although sometimes wood has been used. However, one can find earthen ramparts, which can be reinforced by other materials. Ditches can be dry or filled with water.

Criteria

This category contains outstanding structures which were built for defence against military intrusions.

Classification of fortifications

Fortifications basically can be divided into the following categories:

  • Defensive walls – largest fortifications, enclosing larger regions and even whole states
  • City walls – walls for the protection of cities, towns and villages
  • City gates and towers – parts of city walls – outstanding gates, towers of other parts
  • Fortresses and forts – fortified buildings or groups of buildings – military installations for the protection of troops
  • Prisons – Buildings which were built with the main purpose to detain individuals inside

Recommended books

The History of Castles: Fortifications Around the World


The perfect tour guide to the world’s most fascinating castles and strongholds.

Castles and Landscapes


Castles were among the most dominant features of the medieval landscape and many remain impressive structures to the present day. This paperback edition of a book first published in hardback in 2002 is a fascinating and provocative study which looks at castles in a new light, using the theories and methods of landscape studies.

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