Walls of Constantinople

The Walls of Constantinople are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople (today Istanbul in Turkey) since its founding as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great. With numerous additions and modifications during their history, they were the last great fortification system of antiquity, and one of the most complex and elaborate systems ever built. Initially built by Constantine the Great, the walls surrounded the new city on all sides, protecting it against attack from both sea and land. As the city grew, the famous double line of the Theodosian Walls was built in the 5th century. Although the other sections of the walls were less elaborate, when well manned, they were almost impregnable for any medieval besieger, saving the city, and the Byzantine Empire with it, during sieges from the Avars, Arabs, Rus', and Bulgars, among others (see Sieges of Constantinople). The advent of gunpowder siege cannons rendered the fortifications vulnerable, leading to the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans on 29 May 1453 after a prolonged siege. The walls were largely maintained intact during most of the Ottoman period, until sections began to be dismantled in the 19th century, as the city outgrew its medieval boundaries. Despite the subsequent lack of maintenance, many parts of the walls survived and are still standing today. A large-scale restoration programme has been under way since the 1980s, which allows the visitor to appreciate their original appearance.
Land Walls
Walls of Greek and Roman Byzantium The original fortifications of the city were built in the 7th century BC, when it was founded as Byzantium by Greek colonists from Megara, led by the eponymous Byzas. At the time the city consisted of an acropolis and little more. Byzantium, despite being a prosperous trading post, was relatively unimportant during the early Roman period, but featured prominently in the civil war between Septimius Severus (r. 193–211) and Pescennius Niger (r. 193–194), holding out a Severan siege for three years (193–196). As punishment, Severus had the strong walls demolished and the city was deprived of its status.
However, appreciating the city's strategic importance, he eventually rebuilt it and endowed it with many monuments (including the Hippodrome), as well as a new set of walls, increasing its area. No details are known of the Severan Wall, except its general course and that its main gate was located shortly before the entrance of the later Forum of Constantine.
Wall of Constantine
When Constantine the Great (r. 306–337) moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium, which he refounded as Constantinopolis ("City of Constantine"), he greatly expanded the new city by building a new wall about 2.8 km (15 stadia ) westwards of the Severan wall and incorporating even more territory. Constantine's fortification consisted of a single wall, reinforced with towers at regular distances, which began to be constructed in 324 and was completed under his son Constantius II (r. 337–361). The approximate course of the wall is known: it began at the Golden Horn, near the modern Atatürk bridge, ran southwest and then southwards, passed east of the great open cisterns of Mocius and Aspar, and ended on the Propontis coast, somewhere between the later sea gates of St. Aemilianus and Psamathos. Already by the early 5th century however, Constantinople had expanded outside the Constantinian Wall, in the extramural area known as the Exokionion. The wall survived during much of the Byzantine period, even though it was replaced by the Theodosian Walls as the city's primary defence; it still stood when Justinian I (r. 527–565) ascended the throne, but only traces survived in later ages. Van Millingen states that traces of the wall survived in the region of the İsakapı until the early 19th century.
The names of a number of gates survive of the Constantinian Wall, but scholars debate their identity and exact location. The Old Golden Gate ( Latin: Porta Aurea , Greek: Χρυσεία Πύλη), known also as the Xerolophos Gate and the Gate of Saturninus, is mentioned in the Notitia Urbis Constantinopolitanae , which further states that the city wall itself in the region around it was "ornately decorated". The gate stood somewhere on the southern slopes of the Seventh Hill. Its construction is often attributed to Constantine, but is in fact of uncertain age. It survived until the 14th century, when the Byzantine scholar Manuel Chrysoloras described it as being built of "wide marble blocks with a lofty opening", and crowned by a kind of stoa. In late Byzantine times, a painting of the Crucifixion was allegedly placed on the gate, leading to its later Ottoman name, İsakapı ("Gate of Jesus"). It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1509, but its approximate location is known through the presence of the nearby İsakapı Mescidi mosque. The identity and location of the Gate of At[t]alos ( Πόρτα Ἀτ[τ]άλου, Porta At[t]alou) are unclear. Cyril Mango identifies it with the Old Golden Gate; van Millingen places it on the Seventh Hill, at a height probably corresponding to one of the later gates of the Theodosian Wall in that area; and Raymond Janin places it further north, near the point where the river Lycus passed under the wall. In earlier centuries, it was decorated with many statues, including one of Constantine, which fell down in an earthquake in 740. The only gate whose location is known with certainty, aside from the Old Golden Gate, is the Gate of Saint Aemilianus ( Πόρτα τοῦ ἀγίου Αἰμιλιανοῦ, Porta tou hagiou Aimilianou), named in Turkish Davutpaşa Kapısı. It lay at the juncture with the sea walls, and served the communication with the coast. According to the Chronicon Paschale , the Church of St Mary of Rhabdos, where the rod of Moses was kept, stood next to the gate. The Old Gate of the Prodromos ( Παλαιὰ Πόρτα τοῦ Προδρόμου, Palaia Porta tou Prodromou), named after the nearby Church of St John the Baptist (called Prodromos, "the Forerunner", in Greek), is another unclear case. Van Millingen identifies it with the Old Golden Gate, while Janin considers it to have been located on the northern slope of the Seventh Hill. The last known gate is the Gate of Melantias (Πόρτα Μελαντιάδος, Porta Melantiados), whose location is also debated. Van Millingen considered it to be a gate of the Theodosian Wall (the Pege Gate), while more recently, Janin and Mango have refuted this, suggesting that it was located on the Constantinian Wall. Again however, while Mango identifies it with the Gate of the Prodromos, Janin considers the name to have been a corruption of the ta Meltiadou quarter, and places the gate to the west of the Mocius cistern.
Theodosian Walls
In 408, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (r. 408–450), construction began on a new wall, about 1,500 m to the west of the old. The new wall became known as the Theodosian Wall ( Greek: τείχος Θεοδοσιακόν, teichos Theodosiakon), and was built under the direction of Anthemius, the Praetorian prefect of the East, being completed in 413. New Rome now enclosed seven hills and justified the appellation Heptalophos ( Ἑπτάλοφος, "seven hills"), in imitation of Elder Rome. On 7 November 447 however, a powerful earthquake destroyed large parts of the wall, including 57 towers. Subsequent earthquakes, including another major one in January 448, compounded the damage. Theodosius II ordered the urban prefect Constantine to supervise the repairs, made all the more urgent as the city was threatened by the presence of Attila the Hun in the Balkans. Employing the city's dēmoi (the " Circus factions") in the work, the walls were restored in a record 60 days, according to the Byzantine chroniclers. The chronicles also suggest that at this point, the second outer wall was added, and a wide ditch opened in front of the walls, but the validity of that information is open to question. Throughout their history, the walls were damaged by earthquakes, and repairs were undertaken on numerous occasions, as testified by the numerous inscriptions commemorating the emperors or their servants who undertook to restore them.
Course and topography
The walls stretched for about 6,5 km from south to north, from the Marble Tower ( Turkish: Mermer Kule ), also known as the Tower of Basil and Constantine (Gk. Pyrgos Basileiou kai Kōnstantinou) on the Propontis coast to the Golden Horn. The total length of the surviving walls is 5,630 m, from the Sea of Marmara to the suburb of Blachernae near the Golden Horn, while the section between the Palace of the Porphyrogenitus (known in Turkish as Tekfur Sarayı) and the Golden Horn does not survive, since the line of the walls was later brought forward to cover the suburb of Blachernae. From the Sea of Marmara, the wall turns sharply to the northeast, until it reaches the Golden Gate, at about 14 m above sea level. From there and until the Gate of Rhegion (modern Mevlevihane Kapısı) the wall follows a more or less straight line to the north, climbing the city's Seventh Hill. From there the wall turns sharply to the northeast, climbing up to the Gate of St. Romanus, located near the peak of the Seventh Hill at some 68 m above sea level. From there the wall descends into the valley of the river Lycus, where it reaches its lowest point at 35 m above sea level. From there the wall rises again, climbing the slope of the Sixth Hill, up to the Gate of Charisius or Gate of Adrianople, at some 76 m height. The stretch between the gates of St. Romanus and Charisius, ca. 1,250 m in length, the so-called Mesoteichion (Μεσοτείχιον, "Middle Wall"), is the weakest part of the walls because of the morphology of the ground. In most sieges of the city, this area was the focus of the main assault, albeit only in 1453 with success. From the Gate of Adrianople to the Blachernae, the walls fall to a level of some 60 m. From there the later walls of Blachernae project sharply to the west, reaching the coastal plain at the Golden Horn near the so-called Prisons of Anemas.
The Theodosian Walls consisted of the main Inner Wall (μέγα τείχος, mega teichos, "great wall"), separated from the lower Outer Wall ( ἔξω τείχος, exō teichos or μικρόν τείχος, mikron teichos, "small wall") by a 15–20 m wide terrace, the peribolos (περίβολος). Between of the outer wall and the moat (σούδα, souda) there stretched an outer terrace, the parateichion (παρατείχιον), while a low breastwork crowned the moat's eastern escarpment. The inner wall is a solid structure, 5 m thick and 12 m high. It is faced with carefully cut limestone blocks, while its core is filled with mortar made of lime and crushed bricks. Between seven and eleven bands of brick, ca. 40 cm thick, traverse the structure, not only as a form of decoration, but also strengthening the cohesion of the structure by bonding the stone façade with the mortar core, and increasing endurance to earthquakes. The wall was strengthened with 96 towers, mainly square but also a few octagonal ones, three hexagonal and a single pentagonal one. They were 18-20 meters tall, and placed at intervals of 55 meters. Each tower had a battlemented terrace on the top. Its interior was usually divided by a floor in two chambers, which did not communicate with each other. The lower chamber, which opened through the main wall to the city, was used for storage, while the upper one could be entered from the wall's walkway, and had windows for view and for firing projectiles. Access to the wall was provided by large ramps along their side. The lower floor could also be accessed from the peribolos by small posterns. Generally speaking, most of the surviving towers have been rebuilt either in Byzantine or in Ottoman times, and only the foundations of some are of original Theodosian construction. Furthermore, while until the Komnenian period the reconstructions largely remained true to the original model, later modifications ignored the windows and embrasures on the upper store and focused on the tower terrace as the sole fighting platform. Photo of the peribolos, the space between the inner and outer walls. The outer wall was 2 m thick at its base, and featured arched chambers on the level of the peribolos, crowned with a battlemented walkway, reaching a height of 8.5 m. Access to the Outer Wall from the city was provided either through the main gates or through small posterns on the base of the Inner Wall's towers. The Outer Wall likewise had 96 towers, square or crescent-shaped, situated midway between the Inner Wall's towers, and acting in supporting role to them. They featured a room with windows on the level of the peribolos, crowned by a battlemented terrace, while their lower portions were either solid or featured small posterns, which allowed access to the outer terrace. The Outer Wall was a formidable defensive edifice in its own right: in the sieges of 1422 and 1453, the Byzantines and their allies, being too few to hold both lines of wall, concentrated on the defence of the outer wall. The moat ( σοῦδα, souda) was situated at a distance of about 20 m from the outer wall, creating a terrace called parateichion ( ἔξω παρατείχιον), where a paved road ran along the walls' length. The moat itself was over 20 m wide and 10 m deep, featuring a 1.5 m tall crenellated wall on the inner side, serving as a first line of defence. Transverse walls cross the moat, tapering towards the top so as not to be used as bridges. Some of them have been shown to contain pipes carrying water into the city from the hill country to the city's north and west. Their role has therefore been interpreted as that of aqueducts for filling the moat and as dams diving it into compartments and allowing the water to be retained over the course of the walls. However, there is little direct evidence in the accounts of the city's sieges to suggest that the moat was actually flooded.
The wall contained nine main gates, which pierced both the Inner and the Outer walls, and a number of smaller posterns. The exact identification of several gates is a debatable, for a number of reasons. The Byzantine chroniclers provide more names than the number of the gates, the original Greek names fell mostly out of use during the Ottoman period, and literary and archaeological sources provide often contradictory information. Only three gates, the Golden Gate, the Gate of Rhesion and the Gate of Charisius, can be established directly from the literary evidence. In the traditional nomenclature, established by Philipp Anton Dethier in 1873, the gates are to be distinguished into the "Public Gates" and the "Military Gates", which alternated over the course of the walls. According to Dethier's theory, the former were given names and were open to civilian traffic, leading across the moat on bridges, while the latter were known by numbers, restricted to military use, and only led to the outer sections of the walls. Today however, this division is, if at all, retained as a historiographical convention. First, there is sufficient reason to believe that several of the "Military Gates" were also used by civilian traffic. In addition, a number of them have proper names, and the established sequence of numbering them, based on their perceived correspondence with the names of certain city quarters lying between the Constantinian and Theodosian walls which have numerical origins, has been shown to be erroneous: for instance, the Deuteron, the "Second" quarter, was not located in the southwest behind the Gate of the Deuteron or "Second Military Gate" as would be expected, but rather in the northwestern part of the city.
Golden Gate and the Yedikule Fortress
The Golden Gate and the Castle of Seven Towers in 1685. The dense settlement inside the walls of the fortress is evident, as well as the still-preserved outer gate of the Golden Gate, decorated with relief panels. Following the walls from south to north, the Golden Gate ( Greek: Χρυσεία Πύλη, Chryseia Pylē; Latin: Porta Aurea ; Turkish: Altınkapı or Yaldızlıkapı ), is the first gate to be encountered. It was main ceremonial entrance into the capital, used especially for the occasions of a triumphal entry of an emperor into the capital on the occasion of military victories or other state occasions such as coronations. On rare occasions, as a mark of honor, the entry through the gate was allowed to non-imperial visitors: papal legates (in 519 and 868) and, in 710, to Pope Constantine. The Gate was used for triumphal entries until the Komnenian period; thereafter, the only such occasion was the entry of Michael VIII Palaiologos into the city on 15 August 1261, after its reconquest from the Latins. With the progressive decline in Byzantium's military fortunes, the gates were walled up and reduced in size in the later Palaiologan period, and the complex converted into a citadel and refuge. The Golden Gate was emulated elsewhere, with several cities naming their principal entrance thus, for instance Thessaloniki (also known as the Vardar Gate) or Antioch (the Gate of Daphne), as well as the Kievan Rus', who built monumental "Golden Gates" at Kiev and Vladimir. The date of the gate's construction is uncertain, with scholars divided between Theodosius I and Theodosius II. Earlier scholars favored the former, but the current majority view tends to the latter, meaning that the gate was constructed as an integral part of the Theodosian Walls. The debate has been carried over to an Latin inscription in metal letters, now lost, which stood above the doors and commemorated their gilding in celebration of the defeat of an unnamed usurper: “ Haec loca Thevdosivs decorat post fata tyranni. avrea saecla gerit qvi portam constrvit avro. ” Curiously, the legend has not been reported by any Byzantine author. However, an investigation of the surviving holes wherein the metal letters were riveted verified its accuracy. It also showed that the first line stood on the western face of the arch, while the second on the eastern. According to the current view, this refers to the usurper Joannes (r. 423–425), while according to the supporters of the traditional view, it indicates the gate's construction as a free-standing triumphal arch in 388–391 to commemorate the defeat of the usurper Magnus Maximus (r. 385–388), and which was only later incorporated into the Theodosian Walls. Modern photograph of the Golden Gate, showing the two flanking towers. The top of the walled-up central arch is also visible. The gate, built of large square blocks of polished white marble fitted together without cement, has the form of a triumphal arch with three arched gates, the middle one larger than the two others. The gate is flanked by large square towers, which form the 9th and 10th towers of the inner Theodosian wall. With the exception of the central portal, the gate remained open to everyday traffic. The structure was richly decorated with numerous statues, including a statue of Theodosius I on an elephant-drawn quadriga on top, echoing the Porta Triumphalis of Rome, which survived until it fell down in an earthquake in 740. Other sculptures were a large cross, which fell in an earthquake in 561 or 562; a Victory, which was cast down in the reign of Michael III; and a crowned Fortune of the City. In 965, Nikephoros II Phokas installed the captured bronze city gates of Mopsuestia in the place of the original ones. Surviving fragments of the statues decorating the outer gate of the Golden Gate complex, from the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. The main gate itself was covered by an outer wall, pierced by a single gate, which in later centuries was flanked by an ensemble of reused marble reliefs. According to descriptions of Pierre Gilles and English travelers from the 17th century, these reliefs were arranged in two tiers, and featured mythological scenes, including the Labours of Hercules. These reliefs, lost since the 17th century with the exception of some fragments now in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, were probably put in place in the 9th or 10th centuries to form the appearance of a triumphal gate. According to other descriptions, the outer gate was also topped by a statue of Victory, holding a crown. Despite its ceremonial role, the Golden Gate was one of the stronger positions along the walls of the city, withstanding several attacks during the sieges of the city, and with the addition of transverse walls on the peribolos between the inner and outer walls, it formed a virtually separate fortress. Its military value was recognized by John VI Kantakouzenos (r. 1347–1354), who records that it was virtually impregnable, capable of holding provisions for three years and defying the whole city if need be. He repaired the marble towers and garrisoned the fort ( Greek: φρούριον, phrourion) with loyal Catalan soldiers, but had to surrender it to John V Palaiologos (r. 1341–1391) when he abdicated in 1354. John V undid Kantakouzenos' repairs and left it unguarded, but in 1389-90 he too rebuilt and expanded the fortress: he erected two towers behind the gate and extended a wall some 350 m to the sea walls, forming a separate fortified enceinte inside the city, to serve as a final refuge. Indeed, John V was soon after forced to flee there from a coup led by his grandson, John VII. John V was held out successfully in a siege that lasted several months, and in which cannons were possibly employed. In 1391 however, John V was compelled to raze the fort by Sultan Bayezid I (r. 1382–1402), who otherwise threatened to blind his son Manuel, whom he held captive. Emperor John VIII Palaiologos (r. 1425–1448) attempted to rebuild it in 1434, but was thwarted by Sultan Murad II. The Castle of Seven Towers (1827). After the final capture of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II built a new fort in 1458. By adding three larger towers to the four pre-existing ones (towers 8 to 11) on the inner Theodosian wall, he formed the Fortress of Seven Towers (Turkish Yedikule Hisarı, in Greek Ἑπταπύργιον, Heptapyrgion ). It lost its function as a gate, and for much of the Ottoman era, it was used as a treasury, archive and state prison. The ambassadors of states currently at war with the Porte were usually imprisoned there. Amongst its most notable prisoners was the young Sultan Osman II, who was imprisoned and executed there by the Janissaries in 1622, but the last Emperor of Trebizond, David Megas Komnenos, Constantin Brâncoveanu of Wallachia with his family, and a number of leading Ottoman pashas were also among those executed there. During the Napoleonic Wars, the fortress was the prison of many French prisoners, including the writer and diplomat Francois Pouqueville who was detained there for more than two years (1799 to 1801) and who wrote an extensive description of the fortress in his Voyage en Moree, a Constantinople, en Albanie, et dans plusieurs autres parties de l'Empire Ottoman. The last prisoner was held in the Yedikule as late as 1837. A masjid (small mosque) and a fountain were built in the middle of the fort's inner courtyard, which also contained the houses of the garrison, forming a separate city quarter. The houses were torn down in the 19th century, and a girls' school was built in their place. The outer gate was re-opened in the next year, and the fort's towers functioned as gunpowder magazines for a while thereafter, until the whole facility was turned over to become a museum in 1895. An open-air theater has been built in more recent years, and is used for cultural festivals. Like its namesake in Jerusalem, the way to the Golden Gate is now obstructed by a Muslim cemetery.
Second Military Gate
The Second Military Gate or Gate of Belgrade. The Second Military Gate ( Πύλη τοῦ Δευτέρου) or Xylokerkos Gate ( Πύλη τοῦ Ξυλοκέρκου) lay between towers 22 and 23. Its second name derives from the fact that it led to a wooden circus ( amphitheatre) outside the walls. According to a story related by Niketas Choniates, in 1189 the gate was walled off by Emperor Isaac II Angelos, because according to a prophecy, it was this gate that Western Emperor Frederick Barbarossa would enter the city through. It was re-opened in 1346, but closed again before the siege of 1453 and remained closed until 1886, leading to its early Ottoman name, Kapalı Kapı ("Closed Gate"). Its is known today as the Belgrade Gate ( Belgrad Kapısı), supposedly after the Serbian artisans settled there by Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent after he conquered Belgrade in 1521.
Gate of the Spring The Gate of the Spring.
The Gate of the Spring or Pēgē Gate ( Πύλη τῆς Πηγῆς) was named so after a popular monastery outside the Walls, the Zōodochos Pēgē (" Life-giving Spring") in the modern suburb of Balıklı. Its modern Turkish name, Gate of Selymbria (Tr. Silivri Kapısı, Gk. Πύλη τῆς Συλημβρίας), appears already in Byzantine sources shortly before 1453. It lies between towers 35 and 36, which were extensively rebuilt in later Byzantine times, while the gate arch itself was replaced in the Ottoman period. Van Millingen identifies this gate with the early Byzantine Gate of Melantias (Πόρτα Μελαντιάδος), but more recent scholars have proposed the identification of the latter with one of the gates of the city's original Constantinian Wall (see above). It was through this gate that the forces of the Empire of Nicaea, under General Alexios Strategopoulos, entered and retook the city from the Latins on 25 July 1261.
Third Military Gate
The Third Military Gate ( Πύλη τοῦ Τρίτου), named after the quarter of the Triton ("the Third") that lies behind it, is situated shortly after the Pege Gate, exactly before the C-shaped section of the walls known as the " Sigma ", between towers 39 and 40. It has no Turkish name, and is of middle or late Byzantine construction. The corresponding gate in the outer wall preserved until the early 20th century, but has since disappeared. It is very likely that this gate is to be identified with the Gate of Kalagros. ( Πύλη τοῦ Καλάγρου).
Gate of Rhesios
Modern Yeni Mevlevihane Kapısı, located between towers 50 and 51 is commonly referred to as the Gate of Rhegion ( Πόρτα Ῥηγίου) in early modern texts, allegedly named after the suburb of Rhegion (modern Küçükçekmece), or as the Gate of Rhousios ( Πόρτα τοῦ Ῥουσίου) after the hippodrome faction of the Reds ( ῥούσιοι, rhousioi) which was supposed to have taken part in its repair. From Byzantine texts however it appears that the correct form is Gate of Rhesios ( Πόρτα Ῥησίου), named according to the 10th-century Suda lexicon after an ancient general of Greek Byzantium. Schneider also identifies it with the Gate of Myriandr[i]on or Polyandrion ("Place of Many Men"), possibly a reference to its proximity to a cemetery. It is the best-preserved of the gates, and retains substantially unaltered from its original, 5th-century appearance.
Fourth Military Gate
The so-called Fourth Military Gate stood between towers 59 and 60.
Gate of St. Romanus
The Gate of St. Romanus ( Πόρτα τοῦ Ἁγίου Ρωμάνου) was named so after a nearby church and lies between towers 65 and 66. It is known in Turkish as Topkapı, the "Cannon Gate", after the great Ottoman cannon, the " Basilic", that was placed opposite it during the 1453 siege. With a gatehouse of 26,5 m, it is the second-largest gate after the Golden Gate. This gate was earlier identified as the "civil" Gate of St. Romanus. It is here that Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last Byzantine emperor, was killed on 29 May 1453.
Fifth Military Gate
The Fifth Military Gate (Πύλη τοῦ Πέμπτου) lies immediately to the north of the Lycus stream, between towers 77 and 78, and is named after the quarter of the Pempton ("the Fifth") around the Lycus. It is heavily damaged, with extensive late Byzantine or Ottoman repairs evident. The outer gate has vanished without a trace.It is also identified with the Byzantine Gate of [the Church of] St. Kyriake, and called Sulukulekapı ("Water-Tower Gate") or Hücum Kapısı ("Assault Gate") in Turkish, because there the decisive breakthrough was achieved on the morning of 29 May 1453. In the late 19th century, it appears as the Örülü kapı ("Walled Gate").
Gate of Charisius
The Gate of Char[i]sius (Χαρ[ι]σίου πύλη/πόρτα), named after the nearby early Byzantine monastery founded by a vir illustris of that name, was, after the Golden Gate, the second-most important gate.In Turkish it is known as Edirnekapı ("Adrianople Gate"), and it is here where Mehmed II made his triumphal entry into the conquered city. This gate stands on top of the sixth hill, which was the highest point of the old city at 77 meters. It has also been suggested as one of the gates to be identified with the Gate of Polyandrion or Myriandrion (Πύλη τοῦ Πολυανδρίου), because it led to a cemetery outside the Walls.The last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI, established his command here in 1453.
Minor gates and posterns
The first postern lies between the two first towers of the Inner Wall, and features a wreathed Chi-Rhō Christogram above it.It was known in late Ottoman times as the Tabak Kapı. Similar posterns are the Yedikule Kapısı, a small postern after the Yedikule Fort (between towers 11 and 12), and the gates between towers 30/31, already walled up in Byzantine times,and 42/43, just north of the "Sigma". On the Yedikule Kapısı, opinions vary as to its origin: some scholars consider it to date already to Byzantine times,while others consider it an Ottoman addition.
According to the historian Doukas, on the morning of 29 May 1453, the small postern called Kerkoporta was left open by accident, allowing the first fifty or so Ottoman troops to enter the city. The Ottomans raised their banner atop the Inner Wall and opened fire on the Greek defenders of the peribolos below. This spread panic, beginning the rout of the defenders and leading to the fall of the city. In 1864, the remains of a postern located on the Outer Wall at the end of the Theodosian Walls, between tower 96 and the so-called Palace of the Porphyrogenitus, were discovered and identified with the Kerkoporta by the Greek scholar A.G. Paspates. Later historians, like van Millingen and Steven Runciman have accepted this theory as well. However, excavations at the site have uncovered no evidence of a corresponding gate in the Inner Wall (now vanished) in that area, and it may be that Doukas' story is either invention or derived from an earlier legend concerning the Xylokerkos Gate, which several earlier scholars also equated with the Kerkoporta.
Later history
The Theodosian Walls were without a doubt among the most important defensive systems of Late Antiquity. Indeed, in the words of the Cambridge Ancient History, they were "perhaps the most successful and influential city walls ever built – they allowed the city and its emperors to survive and thrive for more than a millennium, against all strategic logic, on the edge of [an] extremely unstable and dangerous world...".



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