Skip to Main Content

Byzantine Constantinople

Discover the library.. Find books, journals, articles at library and useful websites on Byzantine Constantinople!

Topography - Walls - Hinterland

Old City Walls of Constantinople tourmakerturkey


The first fortifications of Constantinople, on the land side only, were started by Constantine I and completed by Constantius II. In the reign of Theodosios II the Land Walls were extended about 1.5 km to the west so as to describe a huge arc, 6 km long, extending from the Propontis to the Golden Horn. Completed by 413 and repaired on numerous occasions (notably after the earthquakes of 447, 740, 989, etc.), they continued to protect the city throughout the Byz. period and parts of them are still standing. They consist of an inner wall 11 m high with towers at intervals of about 70–75 m, a lower outer wall also furnished with towers, and a moat. The walls are built of bonded masonry with bands of brick (five successive courses going right across the wall) alternating with bands of cut-stone facing, enclosing a core of mortared rubble. The only section of the Theodosian walls that has not survived was in the area of Blachernai, where, as documented both in texts and visible remains, their original line was brought forward by Herakleios to enclose the Church of the Virgin and by Manuel I to protect the imperial palace. The Land Walls were pierced by six main gates, including the Golden Gate, and a number of secondary posterns.

The Sea Walls, both along the Propontis and the Golden Horn, consist of a single line of fortifications and are today poorly preserved. They were first built in 439 and repaired many times, notably under the emperors Anastasios II and Theophilos. About 65 km west of Constantinople the Long Wall was built to defend the imperial capital from attack from that direction. Cyril Mango

 Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991. oxfordreference