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Defensive Structures (2) The smaller ones

Defensive Structures (2) The smaller ones

Some defensive structures are basically walled military compounds on a limited area, fortresses. Others include entire towns.


The fortresses

Throughout the world there are a number of forts some more famous than others, like the Crusader castle Krak des Chevaliers in Syria, and the Inca fortress Saqsayhuaman in Peru. These were largely citadels / fortresses / forts and little else, protecting a military contingent and possibly a king within heavy walls, sometimes with natural or constructed moats, often positioned on a hilltop to provide perspective and extra protection.

It is clear that some of these fortresses also had splendid palaces on the inside. The featured photo of this blog post is from the Alhambra, one of the most impressive of all palaces/citadels/fortresses.

My travels and subsequent picture collection includes Alanya and Rumelihisari in Turkey; Aleppo and the Krak in Syria; Tangier in Morocco; Matsuyama in Japan; The Forbidden City in China. There are also several fortresses in Europe left with almost intact walls dating back to the Middle Ages and later periods. To mention some: London Tower, Kronborg, Sintra, Le Barroux, Tarascon, Corte, Hvar, San Marino, Valletta, Wavel, Kremlin, Alhambra, Salzburg, Würsburg, Wernigerode, Gibraltar.

Check out the pictures tagged “fortress”, included at the end of this article. Here is a collage of some of them.


Collage Fortress 2

Clockwise from top left: Matsuyama, Kronborg, Krakow, Krak-des-Chevaliers, Tarascon, Valletta (centre)


Military strategists are often seeking to take advantage of natural features like rivers and hills. One of the most striking fortifications in world history is located inside what is generally known simply as the Rock. I’m talking about the large fortress on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, Gibraltar.


Gibraltar - Gun inside the old fortress

Gibraltar – Gun inside the old fortress


The British have managed to secure their territory for centuries, much to the dislike of Spain. (Who holds its own provinces across the Strait, in Morocco.)

The development of firearms, heavy guns and more explicitly explosives has triggered new forms of military defence structures. Fortified compounds (forts) are still being built but with no ambition of keeping entire armies at arm’s length, only minor hostile intruders or attacks. Examples are found in Afghanistan.

What has survived to this day is bunkers underground or inside mountains. The picture below is from a not very heavily fortified bunker underneath Whitehall, London.



Cabinet War Rooms in Whitehall, London


Fortified city walls

In other places a walled militarily defended complex was built around the city itself, protecting not only the royals and their courts, but also the civilian population. There are a number of towns in southern Europe with such systems. My favourites include the city wall of Lucca in Italy, as well as that of Dubrovnik in Croatia. In northern Europe, Tallinn the capital of Estonia, has managed to largely preserve its ancient stone wall.


Collage City Walls 2

Collage of city walls. Clockwise from top left: Lucca, Tallinn, Jerusalem, Dubrovnik, Obidos



This is a kind of defensive structure of another kind. I have no pictures of a minefield, not even a recollection of visiting one, although I suspect I have crossed at least one mine field: I entered Israel across the Allenby Bridge from Jordan.


Further reading

This is the second chapter about Defensive Structures of the World. The series:

(1) The huge onesThere are some historically significant and physically huge military structures around the world built with the aim to protect entire countries against invading hostile forces.

(2) The smaller ones: Some defensive structures are basically walled military compounds on a limited area, fortresses. Others include entire towns.

(3) The protection of civilians: Some of the world’s defensive structures have only minor military objectives. They are protecting the civilian population not against military attacks, but from forces of nature and against unidentified foes from within.


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