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Turkey, May 4, 1998

Istambul's City Fortifications

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.

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