Dojo Darelir, the School of Xenograg the Sorcerer

On City Walls

A city wall was made of whatever local material best served the purpose. In Sumeria and Babylonia, there is practically no stone or hardwood. In fact, the most abundant natural resource of these lands is mud. Hence, in Mesopotamia, walls were made of clayey mud. At first the mud was simply scooped up and piled in handfuls. Then it was found that a neater, straighter wall, without visible weak spots to invite attack, could be made by molding the clay into bricks and making the wall of these….

Where stone was to be had, city walls were made of stone—preferably the largest stones that could be moved with the techniques of the time. Even before mortar was invented, men could build a good, solid wall of small stones, which would stand up to the weather better than a wall of mud brick. But then, all an enemy had to do was to pry out a few stones with his spear, and down came a whole section of the wall.

Therefore, many early fortifiers made their walls of very large stones. They trimmed the stones to fit roughly together and stopped up the chinks by pounding in small stones. The sheer weight of the large stones kept the foe from pulling them out, especially if the defenders on top of the wall were raining missiles upon him. Such walls are called “cyclopean” because the ancient Greeks, seeing the ruins of rough walls made of huge stones, built several centuries earlier, thought that the large stones must have been put in place by the mythical one-eyed giants called Kyklopes.

To protect a city, any wall had to be at least 30 feet high and 15 feet thick. If the wall were much lower than this, a numerous enemy could overrun it with scaling ladders. And if the wall were too narrow on top, the defenders could not move along it fast enough to gather at threatened points.

A wall meant more safety, and greater safety fostered the growth of population, partly by natural increase and partly by immigration. As populations waxed, the crowding that ensued made it necessary to use the space inside the wall more efficiently. Therefore, in lands where round houses of stone or clay had prevailed, the round house gave way to the rectangular house; for an oblong house could occupy the whole of a small rectangular lot, whereas a circular house left wasted space at the corners….

Great Cities of the Ancient World, Chapter 1

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