Wall-making has long been one of the great passions of humanity. Since the first days of established civilizations, dating to some 8,000 years ago now, we have followed a general formula that goes something like this:
- Realized planting and harvesting food is easier than looking around for it.
- Being attacked/robbed/burned/etc. by people who want food (not to mention our other nice things) but did not think to grow it themselves.
- Build walls! Hurrah!
- Um… profit?
Perhaps that’s a flippant way of putting much of the history of our countless societies, but it cleaves rather near the truth, frankly. Indeed most every culture that has settled in one place for any long period of time went ahead and built itself some walls. And today, for a special treat, we’re going to talk about five of them that you might not have even heard of, but that were certainly a big deal in their day. Even if not all of them were exactly great.
5 The Medieval Walls of Avila, Spain
We close with these not because they have stood for hundreds of years, and not because of all the history they have borne witness to, but because the walls of Avila look awesome. Picture a medieval fortress in your head right now: yeah, just like that. They’re just awesome looking walls and that’s that.
4 Inca Wall
From about the 12th Century A.D. until Europeans began to ruin everything for them in the early 1500s, the Incas were about the finest builders in the Americas, and that included some mighty fine wall building. How mighty fine, you ask? Well, from a distance many of their walls appear to be a jumble of various sizes of stones all stacked haphazardly. Up close, you will realize that they are actually so well cut, measured, and placed that in many cases, you can’t slide a credit card between them. That perfection that lasted 500 years, see?
3 The Berlin Wall
Here’s one that was a lot more fun to knock down than it was to put up. The Berlin Wall was the USSR’s ultimate way of saying “Look, we’re pretty much going to do what we want here.” The city of Berlin existed as something of an island of Western-style freedom surrounded by the Soviet sphere of influence, housed as it was well within the borders of the short-lived East Germany. But that wasn’t enough for Khrushchev, oh no! In 1961, construction began on the 14 foot high drab gray concrete wall that would run through the heart of Berlin and stand for nearly three decades as the symbol of Soviet domination of the East. Until it got knocked the hell down. Respect.
2 The Maginot Line
OK, this defense construction was mostly subterranean and thus not a true wall, but let’s not get too bogged down in the semantics of things. By the early-to-mid 20th Century, the French had grown sorely tired of the Germans invading their country, so they decided to do something about it. Using the design of its eponymous creator, thousands of workers created during the 1930s a massive network of fortifications, troop barracks, underground transportation networks, etc. all in the interest of establishing such a formidable defense that the Germans, bellicose as they were known to sometimes be, would never dream of attacking it! Which they didn’t — they went around it. Best laid plans, no?
1 Hadrian’s Wall
This amazing wall was constructed starting in 122 A.D. and guess what? 1900 years later, you can still see a lot of it just as it was built by the Ancient Romans. Not bad, Hadrian and Co. Not bad at all. Stretching some 73 miles across modern day England, it was built as the barrier of the Roman Empire’s reach into the region then known as Britannia. Romans, you see, were tired of the people whose land they had stolen attacking them all the time, and finally they figured out that one surefire way to stop being invaded – or at least less regularly – was to erect a barrier that would be hard for would-be invaders to cross. In typical Roman fashion, the engineers and builders were not playing in a Wall Building Scrimmage, and went ahead and dug miles of trenches, erected huge earthen work berms, and topped these with miles and miles of high stone walls punctuated regularly with guard towers full of able-bodied, invader-disliking legionnaires.
Now get out there and build a great wall of your won, why don’t you? What’s that you say? Because you lack the finances, materials, location, time and absolutely any reason whatsoever to feel compelled to do so? Well then… read another list, instead.