The Land Walls
“Passing the grounds of the Altinay Spor Klubu, you will be treated to a splendid view of the Theodosian walls. In 408 A.D., when Theodosius II ascended the throne, the city had already spread way beyond the old Constantinian walls. Emperor Theodosius ordered the construction of a new set of land-walls, those you see today, built approximately one and a half kilometers beyond the old ones. Completed in 413 A.D., these walls were largely demolished in 447 A.D. by a terrible earthquake. At that moment of history, making matters worse, Attila the Hun appeared upon the horizon. With grim determination in the face of this approaching threat and in only two months, the Byzantines rebuilt all of their land-walls more sturdily than before. As Attila’s army moved westward where he was to become known as “the scourge of God” these words were inscribed in Latin on the Gate of Rhegium (Mevlanakapi) commemorating this great feat: “…by the command of Theodosius, Constantine erected these strong walls in less than two months. Scarcely could Pallas herself have built so strong a citadel in so short a span.”
The land-walls extend from the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, a distance of approximately six kilometers. The inner wall was 5 meters wide and 12 meters high. It was studded by 96 towers at 55 meter intervals that were 18 to 20 meters high. Machines for hurling projectiles at the enemy were positioned on top of the towers. The peribolos, between the inner and outer walls, was a 15 to 20 meter terrace. The outer wall was 8 meters high and two meters wide. It, too, had 96 towers alternating with those of the inner wall. Beyond it was an outer terrace, the parateichion, with a battlement on the outside nearly two meters high. After the parateichion came a moat, 10 meters deep and 20 meters wide. It was filled with water when the city was threatened. These walls, comprising a formidable system of defense, protected Byzantium from harm for over a thousand years.
Today, the moat in front of the walls and the land in its surrounds has been turned into cemeteries and vegetable patches. From the Sea of Marmara to the Golden Horn, there are eight gates still in existence. They are, in this order: the Golden Gate (Yedikule Kapisi), Belgrade Gate (Belgradkapi), Silivri Gate or Selymbria Gate (Silivrikapi), the ancient Gate of Rhegium now Mevlana Gate (Mevlanakapi), Cannon Gate (Topkapi), Pempton Gate (Sulukule Kapisi), the Gate of Adrianople (Edirnekapi) and Crooked Gate (Egrikapi).