Fortifications are structures built by human beings for the purpose of warding off attacks by hostile animals or humans.
Fortifications are structures built by human beings for the purpose of warding off attacks by hostile animals or humans. In the broadest sense, fortifications can be forms of protection, such as armor, inoculation, or even insect repellent, worn by an individual to protect against harm. Fortifications can also be communal defenses, such as forts, moats, walls, or the “strategic missile defense,” a proposed network of satellites positioned in outer space to protect against attacking ballistic missiles. In the study of warfare, “fortifications” generally refers to temporary or permanent communal defenses against attacks by human enemies. Temporary fortifications for immediate use in battles or other engagements are called “field fortifications” to distinguish them from permanent structures such as castles, stone walls, and forts.
It seems likely that permanent fortifications evolved in response to the settling of agricultural communities. Early fortifications did not require much sophistication, because threats came mainly from weak and desperate nomadic individuals or from small raiding parties.
In an era when the principal weapons were spears, swords, and arrows, permanent fortifications were an effective defense against swift and vigorous frontal attack. The safest and most effective means of conquest was by
The difficulty of a successful siege lay in maintaining an army in the field for a sustained length of time. Without regular supplies, the army laying siege would be compelled to withdraw, especially if the besieged party had, as in the case of Jericho, access to water and food. Even if the fortification could hold out, a siege might end if there were a betrayal, stirred by civil strife or bribery.
The Great Wall of China, which traverses a distance of 4,160 kilometers and is the largest defensive barrier in the history of humankind, was built to defend China against Mongol invaders.
The ancient Mesopotamian city of
The walls of Babylon required immense size to resist siege engines, battering rams, scaling ladders, siege towers, and catapults. Powerful battering
Fortified cities appeared later in
The wall’s purpose is ambiguous: It may have been principally to keep the population in or to keep marauders out. Only a wealthy and powerful bureaucracy could have afforded to build and maintain such a structure. Only a well-organized army would have dared to oppose it. That China did not rely on the wall for its sole defense is clear from the fact that the Chinese never tore down the walls around the cities where irrigated farming communities had developed. Yet the wall must have intimidated any nomads contemplating attacks upon the awesome might of the wall’s builder.
The remains of a Roman fort along Hadrian’s Wall, showing a valuted underground room, in Northumbria, England.
Hadrian’s Wall in RomanBritain, c. 122-136
The account by ancient Greek historian
Macedonian conqueror Alexander the
In Roman mythology, Romulus and
Toward the end of the third century
To maintain their empire, the Romans built a system of forts, first in open territory, for the purpose of controlling the surrounding countryside, and later on hilltops where there were extensive views for keeping watch. It is likely that a coherent imperial policy dictated a standard form of forts and their distances from one another. In general, Rome used a cordon system of forts and watchtowers without running barriers.
It is believed that a Roman army on the march erected a temporary camp every night. As part of their individual equipment, soldiers carried stakes with which to construct a palisade on top of a bank of earth, which was made by digging a ditch around the camp and piling the earth on the inside perimeter. Although Flavius Vegetius
The principal weapons used in the
and a width at its greatest of 60 feet. A large reservoir was also built that could hold enough water to sustain a siege of several years. In short, it was a structure that was as well suited for its purposes as some of the contemporaneous fortresses elsewhere in the world.
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Sieges and Siegecraft: Ancient and Medieval