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December 12, 2007

Anastasian Wall

The Anastasian Wall (Turkish: Anastasius Suru, Greek: Αναστάσειο Τείχος) or the Long Walls of Thrace (Uzun Duvar, Μακρά Τείχη της Θράκης) is an ancient, stone and turf fortification located 65 km west of Istanbul, Turkey built by the Byzantines during the late 5th century. Originally some 56 km long, it stretches from Evcik İskelesi at the Black Sea coast across the Thracian peninsula to the coast of the Sea of Marmara at 6 km west of Silivri (ancient Selymbria). The wall was part of an additional outer defense system for Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire and probably continued in use until the 7th century.

The wall was named after the Emperor Anastasius I (ruled 491518). However, there is evidence that the fortification already existed in 469 during the reign of Leo I (457 - 474) and in 478 in the era of Zeno (476491), and it was maintained and renewed by Anastasius in the time from 507 to 512. The wall had a thickness of 3.30 m and a height over 5 m. It was built complete with towers, gates, forts, ditches and a military way to protect Constantinople from invasions from the west by Huns, Slavs and Bulgars. A rectangular castrum with dimensions of 250 by 300 m existed also in the central section of the wall.

It is known that the wall had only a limited effectiveness, and the barbarians penetrated it many times, because the fortification's length made it difficult to defend the wall completely by a limited garrison, and also because the wall was not sufficient strong due to its construction in hurry.

The wall fell into ruin after it was abandoned in the 7th century because of the difficulty of keeping it manned and repaired. Over the centuries, the stone of more than half of the total length was reused in other local buildings. It is best preserved in the woodlands of the northern sector.

The Anastasian Wall is an almost unknown example of monumental linear fortification dating from antiquity in continental Europe, next only to Hadrian's Wall (122 AD) in England in its complexity.

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