Athens Walls: From neolithic times to ottoman period

Athens Walls

Athens was not just the birthplace of democracy but a well fortified city, until Roman times. So its city walls should be examined better in six main phases, the initial and first on Acropolis’ rock, the second on its foot, third the expansion until Piraeus and Hellenistic period, fourth during Roman times, fifth in medieval times and sixth and final in Ottoman times.

Acropolis wall view

1. It is commonly known that Acropolis hill was inhabitanted since the Neolithical era. In the beginning of 13th century BC the first palace was built and the first fortification- Cyclopean Wall, when mythological king Aegeas, father of Theseus, was rulling Athens. During Aegeas’ great grandfathers’ times Athenians were taught farming and wine making. Athens became a small city, not yet a state.

2. The second phase of the Wall, is called Pelasgic or Pelargic Wall or Nine Gates Wall (Enneapylon), at the foot of Acropolis.  During the Archaic period, more building we made, and in the end of 6th century the top of the rock was no longer a clear fortress, but mostly a religious center and a treasury.

3. Athens was seriously destroyed after Persian invasion of 480 BC and its defence line and strategy was redesigned. The third and best

Athens Walls today next to Agora

fortification line connected Athens to Piraeus -the famous Themistocles’ wall, built in 479 BC.  It was the basis of defence that gave Athens the upper hand to control the ancient world’s trade. It was 6500 metres in perimeter and had 13 gates. The Walls were finished by Cimon in 456 BC and completed by Pericles ten years later.

Most of the Long Walls’ parts were demolished after Athens defeat in Peloponnesian War in 404, but Athens regained its power very soon and in 395-394 BC a part of the Wall was rebuilt again. Athens was rebuilding its empire, but Macedonias stopped it. In order to defense them, Athenians built Proteichisma in 338 BC, so the Nymph, Mouson and Pnyx hills were protected by a defense wall. After Alexander’s Macedonia the Long Walls had no use.Diateichisma was built in 280 BC. 

Fauvel plan, Athens map end of 18th century. γ =Rizokastro, ε=serpetzes, στ=Ypapanti’s Wall, Ζ= Haseki’s Wall

Athens Walls were in not that bad condition, but were destroyed during Roman Sulla raid to Athens (87-86 BC). It was the time that Athens lost its ancient glory, and the time that was becoming a more religious center started. Athens was already a Roman province.

4. Valerian built new fortifications in 260 AD, in order to protect city from Barbarians attacking Roman empire. Following the sack of Heruli in 267 AD, a new fortification was added in 280 AD. After 529 AD, Athens lost its glory, but remained an important city during Byzantium.

5. Rizokastro was built in 11th century around Acropolis, during Byzantine period. Remains still exist.

6. Haseki Wall, built in 1778, was built during Ottoman period, in order to protect the city from Albanian raiders and mercenaries. At that times robbery was quite usual all around Balkans, since the Ottoman empire was declining. Piracy was a phenomenon quite often for Greeks around Aegean Sea as well.