Istambul’s City Fortifications

1998 > Turkey

For 2000 years, only twice did the city walls of Istanbul fall!

Only breached twice in 2000 years!

A section of the wall
The city of Istanbul has stood for two thousands years, falling
only twice to invaders. Since it sits on a peninsula, the only way
to attack the city was a land march along the peninsula, which were stopped
by the city walls. I’ve seen the city walls of Warsaw, Tallinn, and
of the Kremlin, but none were as amazing as the city walls of Istanbul.
Built around 500 AD, they are a marvel of defensive strategy.
Following the crest of a hill, they occupy the highest point along
the peninsula, and look out on a long, flat, shelterless plain where it was
easy to spot and attack an invader.

The walls themselves were actually three walls of increasing height, all
several meters thick. The first wall is low, about three meters high,
with a spot for defenders to repel the first wave of attackers. The
second wall is about 9 meters above the first, and was the main defensive
area. regular towers along this wall made it possible to attack the
invaders from three sides if they breached the fist wall.

The third wall is the most impressive, 15 meters high, and several meters
thick. With towers within range of each other, any attacker breaching
the second wall would be under a hail of stones from two towers of the third
wall simultaneously. The third wall was set back from the second, far
enough to amass a fair number of troops for defense or counter attack, out
of sight of the enemy.

The sheer amount of earth and stone required to build the walls impresses
me now, and must have been an awe inspiring sight in the days of horses and
oxen. Like the Great Wall of China, Istanbul’s city walls are a testament
to the industry of man.