O. Hülden: Das griechische Befestigungswesen der archaischen Zeit

Das griechische Befestigungswesen der archaischen Zeit. Entwicklungen - Formen - Funktionen

Hülden, Oliver
Sonderschriften des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes in Wien (59)
Wien 2020: Holzhausen
Anzahl Seiten
560 S.
€ 165,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Tomáš Alušík, Charles University, Prague

The book in question is based on the author's Habilitation and represents its revised and enlarged version. The author's effort is to present a general study of fortifications in the whole ancient Greek world (including two regions of Asia Minor, whose history was closely connected to the history of the Greeks – Phrygia and Lydia), namely from the Protogeometric (Early Iron Age) to the late Archaic/early Classical periods. The author deals especially with the issues of the origins of the defensive architecture in the (Early) Iron Age (when and where did the first Greek fortified settlements come into existence), the question of the potential influence by Oriental models, if the Greek colonization influenced in turn the development of fortifications in the core (home) Greek territories and what was the role of fortifications during the genesis and formation of early Greek poleis.

The book is an extensive volume (510 pages of text, with additional almost 40 pages of bibliography) and is well-illustrated. It is a refreshing companion and successor of several similar publications that came out in the last ca. 25 years, which are, naturally, surpassed at least in several points – especially a “Classical” book by F. Lang and a recent study by R. Frederiksen. It also well follows up the extensive overview of the Greek prehistoric defensive architecture.[1]

The book's text is structured into three main parts: 1) Introduction, 2) a catalogue of the defensive architecture of the Greek world, and 3) a general analysis and final summary. The first introductory part (after the actual short opening) presents the history of the research in short, which is important for understanding the results of the studies and interpretations made so far. Then it discusses (on almost 20 pages) the methodological principals and problems of investigating historical fortifications. It is possible to say that this chapter is one of the fundamental and seminal parts of this book.

The author unequivocally emphasizes the problem of accurate dating of the preserved examples, especially based on an “architectural style analysis”, and accentuates the importance of the archaeological excavations during the study of the ancient fortifications. Unfortunately, even the excavations brought, in some cases, problematic or ambiguous results: sometimes it is difficult to identify the oldest phases of fortifications due to their rudimentary nature, bad state of preservation, and the risk of confusion with the terrace retaining walls. Some enclosure walls were built directly on the bedrock, so the excavation cannot date them on the basis of stratigraphy. But the chronological determination based on “style” proved in many cases as risky because it can be influenced by the observer's perspective and the regional “architectural fashion”. The “style viewpoint” can thus be a rather secondary, complementary factor for the fortification chronology.

The second and most extensive part of the book contains a detailed catalogue of 157 sites in total from the periods in question. It is divided into eight sections according to the geographic regions: Crete; Aegean islands; “Greek“ Asia Minor (western Anatolian coast and some neighbouring islands); “other“ Asia Minor (Lydia, Phrygia, and Caria); Cyprus; Sicily, south Italy and central Mediterranean (incl. Libya); mainland Greece; and Black Sea area. In every section/region, the presented sites are introduced in alphabetical order. Their description reflects the amount of the results of the excavations as well as the importance of the site concerning the length of existence, the spatial extension, or architectural characteristics. Usually, a plan of the fortification (or the entire site with it) is provided, and sometimes the photos of the actual walls or towers, too. If there are any known descriptions of the fortifications or the war events by the ancient authors, they are also mentioned in the text. It has to be noted that the author within these catalogue entries sometimes performs an essential revaluation of the chronology of the elements of fortifications in some sites – and their date he often shifts to the later period. Concerning the high amount of the studied sites – and still a rather limited extent of the book – many descriptions of the defensive architecture are rather short, and the overview of the research and some author's arguments are presented only briefly. Such descriptions can seem too simplified or confusing to specialists in the individual sites, but, in my opinion, this is not the author's fault or a book defect.

The third part of the book presents the overall analyses and conclusions. Its relative brevity is naturally explained by the referencing to the catalogue of the sites for all mentioned/discussed material or chronological data. The author discusses here mainly the forms of fortifications and the influence of the period warfare on the forms and appearance. Then he tries to outline certain lines of development of the defensive architecture in the periods in question. In general, Hülden shows that the fortifications of the (Early Iron Age to) Archaic period do not form a linear development, but it rather seems that every polis has created own system based on the available means and reflecting the potential external danger. In the whole Greek Archaic world, thus exists a great regional variety of defensive architecture that can be explained by the local contexts. This part of the book contributes substantially to the study of the Greek fortifications. The final summarizing table with all 157 sites discussed in the catalogue (presented here in alphabetical order) at the end of the book is also useful for the reader.

O. Hülden‘s monograph definitely represents a significant and highly beneficial work, which will become a basic reference publication in the field of ancient fortification studies for the following years. I also believe that it will stimulate further research of the Greek defensive architecture, not only in the Archaic period.

In the end, I take the liberty of considering the further research of the Greek defensive architecture. Because the focus of similar overviews (including the reviewed one) logically lies in the Archaic period (especially in the 6th to early 5th centuries BC), when the construction of fortifications began to be more developed and its remains are preserved in a higher number of sites, less attention was paid to the earlier periods, especially to the beginning of the first millennium BC, when evidence of fortifications is very difficult to follow or grasp (as, after all, the author has proved in this book). Within the studies of the defensive architecture, the research in the following years should especially focus on the problematic period of the end of the Bronze and the beginning of the Iron Age (Late Minoan/Late Helladic III to Geometric), when especially on the Aegean islands a lot of defensible sites appeared, some of which were also fortified. It would be interesting to follow if there’s any substantial architectural and/or regional continuity with the later Archaic and early Classical (6th and 5th centuries BC) fortifications. Of course, this is a difficult task that cannot be fulfilled without new studies (or their continuation) in certain sites, at least. It would also be beneficial to prepare a new extensive monographic synthesis of the Greek prehistoric defensive architecture – the last one has been published already 15 years ago.[2]

[1] Franziska Lang, Archaische Siedlungen in Griechenland. Struktur und Entwicklung, Berlin 1996; Rune Frederiksen, Greek city walls of the Archaic period, Oxford 2011; Georgios Kalogeroudis, Befestigungsanlagen im griechischen Raum in der Bronzezeit und ihre Entwicklung von neolithischer bis in archaische Zeit, Oxford 2008.
[2] Georgios Kalogeroudis, Befestigungsanlagen im griechischen Raum in der Bronzezeit und ihre Entwicklung von neolithischer bis in archaische Zeit, Oxford 2008.

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