The powerful walls of ancient fortresses stand unshakable for many centuries, reminding humanity of its mysterious past. Terrible and impregnable buildings, bewitching with their view alone, are silent witnesses of many epoch-making events. At one time, they were erected in order to protect certain territories during a long siege by enemy troops. Thus, many fortresses in history became famous thanks to the defense shown: Izmail, Naryn-Kala, Brest Fortress and others. But there are also such buildings that are more famous as prisons: the Tower, the Parisian Bastille, the Peter and Paul Fortress. So, what is a fortress, when did it appear and how did it change over time, let's try to figure it out.
Definition of fortress
A fortress is one of the types of fortifications of a military-defensive nature, protecting a certain territory, city or settlement. Its function is also to ensure control and power over the already occupied territories. Being the most important strategic place, it was equipped with all the necessary means and provisions to withstandprolonged siege during hostilities. In peacetime, the fortress housed a permanent garrison to maintain general order in the surrounding areas.
Unlike a medieval castle, which was one continuous structure with a courtyard containing everything you need, the fortress was a certain allotment of land with fortified buildings, surrounded by a high wall. Even before the beginning of the 20th century, fortresses were a stronghold for the armed forces of the army during military-political conflicts. Warehouses with military equipment were located on their territory and, if necessary, they covered the concentration and deployment of military forces.
The appearance of defensive structures
The founders of modern fortresses were unpretentious fortifications in front of small human settlements dating back to the primitive era. With the rapid increase in the number of human society, there was a vital need to build a defense against the encroachments of unfriendly neighbors. The first defensive fortifications were built as a solid fence from all available material at hand. For the most part, logs were used, which were installed in the form of a palisade, but walls of wood or stone and earthen ramparts were also practiced. It could hardly be called a fortress, but they coped well with the defensive task. Later, deep ditches began to be built additionally to the fences, which, if possible, were filled with water.
Protection of the first settlements in the event of a raidthe enemy was carried out by the inhabitants themselves. In later times, with the emergence of cities and states, this function was taken over by professional troops, which led to the need to improve the means of defense.
Fortresses of ancient civilizations
In the 13th century BC, the mighty power of the Hittites erected stone fences with square towers in what is now Turkey. In the ancient Egyptian civilization around 1500 BC, fortified buildings made of mud brick with square towers and powerful gates were created to protect the southern borders. Starting from the 16th to the 12th centuries BC, the small states that ruled the territory of Greece had their own defensive structures.
In the West, the first fortresses began to be built in the VI century BC and represented a whole system of fortifications. Celtic forts on the hills have survived well to this day and clearly demonstrate the complex internal structure with underground passages and labyrinths. Maiden Castle in the south of England (Dorset County) seems to be one of the surviving types of fortress from the Roman period. Impressive earthen ditches and embankments were lined with a powerful wooden fence, however, they could not resist the assaults of the Romans. The conquerors quickly captured the cities and established their power by building rectangular forts in most areas of England.
The Middle Ages in Europe were veryturbulent times, wars were arranged at the slightest pretext, which provoked the active construction of fortresses everywhere. They were built in the form of fortified castles, cities and monasteries. In the continuous struggle for power and territory, they began to play an important role. In the autumn of 1066, the Duke of Normandy invaded England with claims to the royal throne. He erected his first defenses at the old Roman fort at Penvensey, followed by the castles of Hastings and Dover, which subsequently led him to victory.
Most of the early wooden fortresses were rebuilt during the Middle Ages. The stone tower was much more durable, and its height provided the soldiers with additional protection and good visibility. The architecture of the fortress also underwent constant changes; rectangular, round, square and multilateral structures were erected. In the XIII century, during the time of the Crusades, Western architects were able to get acquainted with the massive fortifications of the Byzantine Empire. As a result, structures with concentric designs began to rise throughout England and France.
Fortifications in Russia
In Ancient Russia, the construction of wooden fortresses actively began in the X-XI centuries, mainly with the aim of protecting settlements from attacks by nomads. Over a relatively short period of time, more than 86 cities were fortified. In the future, fortresses made of stone were replaced by wood-and-earth fortifications in Kyiv, Yuryev, Pereyaslav, Novgorod. Later they lined up in Pskov, Izborsk, Moscow and other cities.
Princely courts and buildingswere usually located inside the city, and monasteries were often assigned the role of border fortresses. These fortified structures were the first on the line of defense against enemy troops. Around Moscow, the monasteries held back the onslaught of enemies: Danilov (1282), Andronikov (1360), Simonov (1379), Novodevichy (1524) and others. The mainstay of Russian fortifications was considered to be the church or princely central courtyard, enclosed by a wall with towers; it was called krom (detinets), and from the beginning of the XIV century - the Kremlin.
The invention of artillery in the XIV century, and then the appearance of the iron core (XV century) led to changes in the structure of the fortress. The walls lowered and condensed, and the towers began to be built at the same height with them, while with a larger area and a ledge forward. Rifle and artillery posts on the walls were responsible for the frontal defense, the approaches to the fence were protected by artillery pieces on the towers. In Russian fortresses, in addition to open positions on the walls, special rooms with loopholes were additionally organized.
The towers of the fortress were semicircular ledges of the walls, accessible from the side of the city, they were called rondels. In the XVI-XVII centuries, rondels were replaced by bastions, pentagonal buildings, and became widespread.
When the struggle for power began to calm down and feudal fragmentation became history (XV - mid-XVII century), fortified structures remained only on the borders of states. With the advent of huge armies at the turn of the 18th-19th centuries, it turned out that the fortresses could notconform to the new tactics of military art. The enemy forces simply went around the place where the fortress was located and continued to move towards the center of the country.
Even in the Renaissance, the meaning of the fortress as a defensive structure began to change somewhat. Protective responsibilities fell mainly on forts, specially erected fortifications in the field. At the same time, some fortresses began to carry out the functions of local administrative authorities or were given over to prisons. Others were successfully remodeled into luxurious estates and palaces. It is curious that in order to save money, materials from the former fortress were often used. And these were already completely different structures with new tasks and goals.
The fate of many fortresses was also predetermined in the civil war. In states, they began to be used as strongholds by opposing forces. Therefore, after the victory, they tried to get rid of them in order to prevent the possibility of future involvement in conflicts.
Ultimately, the invention of gunpowder gradually led to the inconspicuous departure of traditional fortresses as defensive structures. They were unable to withstand cannon fire. The fortresses that survived the wars were transformed into peaceful castles or eventually became the center of the city that grew around them.
- Danish archaeologists have discovered a previously unrecorded Viking fortress, presumably built towards the endX century. Its unusual architecture indicates that the Normans were not only illiterate pirates and robbers.
- Burghausen has reached the millennial milestone of its existence, being the longest (1043 meters) building in Europe. Judging by the reviews, the fortress is a rather picturesque example of the defensive architecture of the Gothic style.
- In France in the XIII-XIV centuries, there were approximately 50 thousand fortresses, fortified cities and monasteries.
- During its rich history, the Tower of London served as a defensive fortress, a palace, a repository of royal jewels, a mint, a prison, an observatory and even a zoo.
- The history of Yerevan begins with the Erebuni fortress, which was founded by the king of Urartu Argishti in 782 BC. It is included in the list of the oldest fortresses on the planet.
- The famous phrase "Russians don't give up!" is directly related to the defense of the Osovets fortress, located on the territory of Poland. A small Russian garrison during the First World War initially needed to hold out for only 48 hours, but in fact it had to defend itself for more than six months (190 days).