Repairing and constructing
Tὸ ἄδηλον τῶν ἐπισυμβαινόντων ὁρῶντες καὶ τὴν ἄσφάλειαν μᾶλλον τῆς εὐπρεπείας προκρίνοντες ἐκεῖ ταύτας ποιεῖν βουλευόμεθα καὶ τείχη περιβαλεῖν, ἔνθα ἄν τὰ τῶν πολιορκούντων ἀδυνατεῖ μηχανήματα.
Ανώνυμος Συγγραφέας, Περί Στρατηγίας
The primary reason for the construction of fortifications is the basic human need for security. Beyond the protection of the inhabitants who lived in or nearby the castle at times of danger, such a fortification could fulfil other objectives: controlling major passes, defending wider areas, or even acting as a tangible symbol of power, as in the case of the Frankish castles of the Peloponnese in the 13th century onwards. The different needs and uses they were called upon to perform as fortifications led to the construction of different categories of structures: citadels, land barriers, city walls, settlement defences, fortresses, stand-alone towers, tower-houses, fortified monastery fortifications.
In military manuals chapters are given over to the construction of fortifications: from the choice of location up to technical guidance for the very fortification itself. For example, to select the correct position it is necessary, according to the anonymous author of the 6th century Περὶ Στρατηγίας (On Strategy), to examine the suitability of the site. Also it is important that the place on which the fortified city is to be built is close to drinking water and building materials, as well as being able to provide the necessary edible provisions.
Archaeological evidence shows that in choosing the position these basic principles were actually followed: they date back to ancient times, and were applied consistently, except in the Roman period and Late Antiquity, from the 6th century onwards. Specifically, chosen positions favoured isolated rocks, naturally fortified hilltops, or small peninsulas with but a narrow access to the mainland, as well as sites located near rivers, seas or streams.
The numbers of these chapters in the military manuals of the 6th century and the quantity of information contained on fortifications shows the depth both of accumulated experience and also of interest the state had in the construction of such projects. The Early Byzantine period was a time of raids and insecurity: the anonymous writer just mentioned opted for grim security over graceful appearance. In Greece and the Peloponnese there are examples enough to show that because of the Slavic invasions the population sought refuge in the mountainous hinterland, on the coast or in the islands which the Byzantine fleet could better keep secure.
During the same period Emperors undertook significant building projects which included fortifications. The Emperor Theodosius II built the walls of Constantinople, but also a project of great importance for the security of the entire Peloponnese, the Hexamilion wall at the Isthmus of Corinth. Anastasios built, strengthened and improved several fortifications in the territories of the empire, such as the fortress of Daras in Mesopotamia; to him too has been attributed the defences known as the Long Walls of Thrace or the Anastasian Wall. The construction and general repairs, reconstructions and the founding of castles were for the Byzantines a state affair and an expression of imperial domination: for which reason interest in fortifications from that quarter never ceased.
Care for the execution of the construction and the maintenance of the fortifications was in the early years the task of the Praetorian prefect (praefectus praetorio). At the end of the 7th century this institution was dissolved: in its place was created the logothesion tou stratiotikou (military bureau) who assumed responsibility for the financing and care for the fortifications. The official in charge, the logothetes, was appointed directly by the Emperor, with the details of command laid down by Royal decree. The sources mention other officials too, who possibly were involved in the process of building, managing and maintaining of castles: such as protokentarchoi of the imperial castles, the kastrofylakes (castle guards), the kastroktistes and the domestichos of the walls. Sometimes the contribution of the clergy could be important, even crucial. Examples of such churchmen exist for the late Byzantine period, e.g. the bishops Nephon of Cyzicus and Theoleptos of Philadelphia turned their attention to the defence and fortification of their respective cities.
The cost of building and repair was particularly high and was a burden both on the state and its citizens. To cover the financial outlay in part, resort was had to imposing upon citizens a form of forced-labour or levée, the kastroktisia, which consisted of the obligatory provision of labour and possibly material. The first mention of the word is found in a document of 995. In addition to the kastroktisia, yet other taxes were sometimes imposed, like the dikeraton, the phloriatikon and the abiotikion. During the Venetian occupation an institution akin to the kastroktisia was imposed, and later in Ottoman times the forced provision of personal work, money, raw materials, tools and pack-animals was maintained. Certainly part of the workforce were soldiers. For the renovation of fortifications a hired workforce was used, though ‘voluntary’ assistance was not turned down. The value of the institution of the kastroktisias in the construction and repair of fortifications is proved by the fact that this requirement was hardly ever exempt from taxation. On the contrary – witness the case of Monemvasia in the 15th century where the goods-tax could not be made over to the state but had to be available for the building and maintenance of the walls. Moreover, people with wealth contributed financially to the construction or repair of fortifications. Further again, as indicated once more by the case of Monemvasia, it was possible that in the event of a resident's death, who had left no will or heirs, his estate would accrue to the State to cover defence costs. Finally, both wealthy landowners and high-ranking officials met the cost of building fortifications.
The realization of a fortification project required many skilled and unskilled workmen, such as bricklayers, stonecutters, carpenters and assistants. However, the evidence we have for the size of the labour force is rather meagre. In order to carry out a piece of fortification work – and for reasons of making a livelihood – it was not unheard of that the construction workshops be moved to larger premises than their places of residence permitted. This is probably behind the fact that the stand-alone towers with buttresses at their sides are to be found in the region of Macedonia. When new rulers are being installed somewhere, this is usually accompanied by an influx of qualified personnel. This can be observed for example from the physical facilities that are included in Frankish buildings in the Peloponnese. As regards the time required to manage a fortification project, that was a matter for the human resources available, the existing building materials stock-piled, the size of the project, and the immediacy or not of any danger. In general, however, the assumption seems to be that it does not take a long time.
The role in the construction of castles played by architects and engineers is crucial. In Sta Taktika of Emperor Leo VI, he described in detail their roles, but, as is the case for most experts working in the artistic and technical professions (such as architects, engineers, builders and master builders) few names are known to us. This is particularly true for those involved with the construction of fortifications. Viktorinos is known – his name is preserved in an inscription of the 6th century concerning the Hexamilion wall. This situation of anonymity changed after the 15th century, thanks to the contribution of major Renaissance personalities and qualified engineers – including, for example, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Antonio da Sagngallo, Michele Sanmicheli, who between them advanced fortification construction to something of an exact science. Known, inter alia, are the master builder Manuel Koundis or Constantine Manolis who built part of the walls of Rhodes in 1457, and the engineers who built several sections of the Acronafplia, such as Gambello, La Salle, Levasseur, Albergetti and Da Silva. The architect-engineers played an important role in designing a fortification. Generally the castles of the Peloponnese, in the Byzantine period, but also after 1204, take account in their planning of the natural defensive capabilities of the position. There were, however, also castles laid out on some geometric alignment and patterning, even adjusting the terrain to fit (Chlemoutsi, Karytaina). Those fortifications built according to a plan are usually Venetian.
A prominent role in the construction of fortifications, as in any kind of architectural endeavour from the Roman period on, is played by the mortar, as a binding agent. In the early Byzantine period until the 6th century, the norm for creating fortification walls was stone-built faces with a rubble infill. The facing stones in the built sides can be alternated with rows of bricks, which even interrupt the stone courses, e.g. in the Theodosian walls of Constantinople and in some parts of the walls of Acrocorinth (which may belong to this period). Or they may be placed in the rectangular system of construction, as for example in the Hexamilion wall. Ancient stone blocks (spolia) can be reused with great care, for example in the Larissa in Argos and at the Acrocorinth.
The Arab invasions into the Middle East had an important effect on the way walls were built. In order to quickly address the risk the invaders posed, fortifications were constructed in which the built sides were no different from the core. That is to say, the faces of the walls were not constructed carefully, but used roughly processed stones or even unworked field-stones, as is visible in part of the Acrocorinth, where the walls are dateable to these transitional centuries. To make the surface more regular, smaller stones as infilling and plenty of binding material were employed. This development is of particular importance as the castles could now be built with relative ease, economy and speed without losing stability and functionality. Of course if there was good stone available, as well as money, time and the necessary skills, then the Byzantines could still put up fortifications, or at least the most prominent parts of them, in an elegant manner (for a typical example, see the Middle Byzantine parts of Acrocorinth). We should note here that the use of bricks in horizontal rows is done even when the building stones are unworked. The construction of contemporary fortifications that used different masonry systems was characteristic of the Middle Byzantine architectural habits, and especially widespread in the Komnenian period and even more so at the time of Emperor Manuel Komnenus. In the same area the masonry may alternate between roughly cut stones and bricks carelessly placed in approximately horizontal courses.
After the conquest of the Peloponnese by the Franks and the establishment of the Frankish Principality of Achaea, numerous castles were built to serve the needs of the feudal lords. The castles gradually passed into the hands of the Byzantines. However, the lack of systematic recording, excavation and more recent construction works, together with the lack of sources for this troubled and insecure period (excepting the Chronicle of the Morea), let alone the successive reconstructions and repairs of the castle through the centuries that employed similar building techniques (field or coarsely dressed stones held together with mortar and fragments of tiles, bricks, and smaller stones) all these factors make it difficult to attribute specific construction methods to various traditions or workshops. Generally the Frankish rulers predominantly made use of the local workforce and building materials to construct their castles. If the castles were built near places where earlier building material was available, then they used it, inserting at the joints smaller stones or even bricks. The biggest and best stones went for corners or the wall’s base. When no ancient stones existed, they used what was locally present in more or less regular sizes and shapes. At the joints brick fragments were used without any pretence of regularity, even when placed in horizontal rows, as for example at Chlemoutsi and Larissa, unlike what was achieved in Middle Byzantine masonry. Stones were meticulously used mainly to fill up openings.
The centuries following the conquest of the Peloponnese by the Ottomans were characterized by the introduction of firearms, with frequent bouts of warfare between them and Venetians, with switches in sovereignty. This situation definitely had a direct impact on the fortifications in terms of the layout and construction, so as to respond to developments in military technology. But in the terms of the building materials they continued to use variations on the rubble-masonry theme. Safely attributable to the Second Venetian period of rule are walls made with a mixed system, consisting of a zone with oblong stones worked in such a way as to give the impression of ancient material, followed by a band with stones in the rectangular structure system (see the Mocenigo bastion, in the Acronafplia).
It was general practice in all periods to reuse and recycle older building material, in all parts of the fortifications.
Those erecting the fortifications seem to take account of their aesthetic appearance. The castles themselves were not only a protection to the people living in them and the demonstration of power. Even the physical location where they were built had an impact so as to deter (the attackers) or to hearten (the defenders). Accordingly they incorporated in the masonry sculptures, decorated architectural members and coats of arms in relief. Brick elements were manipulated to create decorative motifs such as crosses. These elements had a symbolic and ideological dimension, and so contributed not only to a particular aesthetic effect but also can act as a deterrent. The inscriptions on the walls were not only informative statements but also had political and ideological dimensions.
The Castle at War
Ἀποκρεμᾶν δὲ κατὰ τῶν προμαχώνων ξύλα βαρέα πάνυ, κορμία, καὶ μύλους λιθίνους διὰ σχοινίων ἵνα, ἐὰν προσάψωσι σκάλας εἰς τὰ τείχη, κοπτομένων τῶν σχοινίων ἐπιπέσωσιν ἐπάνω τῶν ἀναβαινόντων καὶ διαφθείρωσιν αὐτοὺς. τοῦτο δὲ ἐν κύκλῷ τοῦ τείχους γενέσθαι κελεύομεν καὶ μηδένα λείπειν προμαχῶνα, εἰ δυνατόν, ὅστις οὐκ ἔχει ἤ λίθον βαρύτατον ἤτοι μύλον ἤ ξύλον μακρὸν καὶ βαρὺ πάνυ, δυνάμενον συντρίψαι καὶ σκάλαν καὶ τοὺς ἐπ’ αὐτῆς ἀναβαίνοντας.
Important facts about warfare can be drawn from military manuals that for certain periods of the Byzantine Empire preserve plenty of information. Data is also forthcoming from other historical works: here the source of information may be the words of emperors, of priests, as well as of military men.
In Byzantium no distinction existed between strategy relating to the management of the army in the case of war and tactics concerning the organization and preparation of the army for battle. Important issues were rather the siege and defence of cities and the war machines.
The military policy of the Byzantine state became more aggressive in the 10th century primarily in order to address the Arab threat.
The manuals include instructions for the defenders of a castle. Par excellence such lessons are set out in a text of an anonymous author, writing probably in the first half of the 10th century: the work is known as the De obsidione toleranda (On withstanding sieges). The besieged are broadly called upon to take measures themselves to prevent damage, famine, treason and to take advantage of any carelessness on the part of the attackers. An important factor in the prosecution of a siege, for both the defenders and the besiegers alike, is access to sufficient water and food: accordingly both sides must take measures to stock-pile what resources they can and against having their possibilities of relief from being cut-off.
The military manuals devote little space to the topic of the art of siege-warfare, even though the occupation or the loss of a castle had important economic and social repercussions both for controlling the region the castle supervised and for its population. The capture of a fortified city could be achieved by the combination of various methods that included blockade, surprise attacks, tricks and frontal attacks on the walls.
Let alone controlling a passage-route or a broader region, a fortress in confronting enemy attacks had to ensure the security of its inhabitants. The defensive capabilities of a castle comprise both passive and active components. For the first there exist such elements as walled enceinte enclosures, the central keep, towers, gates, the arrow-slits, and battlements. But during a siege the defenders could enhance these defensive capabilities of the walls by hanging from them heavy stones or other weighty objects attached to ropes: once freed, they would crush in their descent those who were trying to climb the walls.
For those pressing a siege, there was need of siege ladders, rams, portable siege towers, various types and forms of testudos, and other machines by which they could hurl arrows and stones – such as ballistas and onagers, as well as vessels containing flammable materials that were fired at the enemy forces. In the Late Byzantine period they employed machines for throwing projectiles and similar which are described in the sources in new terminology, viz. mangonel and prekoula. This proves that the Byzantines had adopted Western advances in military technology. With these machines and other devices and tools the besiegers secured their advance to the walls of beleaguered castle, and set about the destruction of the gate-doors, tunnelling to undermine the foundations of the walls, and finally the storming of a castle. It is believed that the emphasis given in military manuals to the undermining of the walls is connected to the lack of ability the other devices the Byzantines had to destroy the walls in other ways.
These weapons, despite some developments, discharged direct or vertical shots and so had little impact force. As a result the castle-fortifications themselves present only small changes over time. Essentially the same basic format and considerations applied as they had in Late Antiquity - high vertical walls, interrupted by towers at intervals. Some adaptations were made to meet the needs and development of military science: for example in the 5th century to counter the use of rams and catapults towers of triangular and pentagonal form appear.
An important development affecting the outcome of a siege is the increase in the use of gunpowder in European territories in the 14th century and the concomitant introduction of firearms: these contributed, inter alia, to the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is this development in military technology in particular that compelled major changes too in the art of fortification, which thereafter was adapted to meet the new circumstances of weaponry by making improvements, reinforcements, additions and by the widespread implementation of new approaches.
The images that illustrate the text (Parangelmata Poliorcetica) of Hero of Byzantium contain some of the most famous depicting siege machines and artillery. They show, at least in the 10th century, the importance and interest with which the Byzantines viewed the military arts.
The Castle at Peace
Ἡ πολιτεία κοιμᾶται. Μονάχα μὲ τὴν ἀνατολὴ τοῦ ἥλιου θὰ σημάνει τὸ βούκινο ψηλὰ στὶς βίγλες κ' οἱ πόρτες τῶν τειχιῶν θ' ἀνοίξουν. Τότε ἕνας κόσμος ἀνάκατος θ' αρχίσει να ξεχύνεται στοὺς δρόμους, να βουΐζει σὰν ποτάμι καὶ νὰ διασταυρώνεται κάτω ἀπὸ τὴ μεγάλη καμάρα τῆς πύλης ποὺ ὁδηγεῖ στὴν ἐξοχή. Χωριάτες μὲ τὰ πουλερικὰ τους θὰ μπαίνουνε γιὰ τὴν ἀγορά, πραματευτῆδες καβαλικεμένοι πάνω σε μοῦλες κατάφορτες, καλόγεροι Ρωμιοὶ καὶ Φράγκοι.
Α. Τερζάκης, Ἡ πριγκηπέσσα Ἰζαμπώ
During the course of their existence, fortifications in their various kinds formed a physical setting to everyday life, in all its residential, religious, commercial, economic and social manifestations. The fortifications offered the residents a sense of security, allowing them to live, to work, to exercise their religion, have fun and be educated: and as the common backdrop to all these activities were the walls. Little information is available to us for these different aspects of everyday life, due in part to the scarcity of direct references in the historical sources (such as the Lives of the Saints, and travellers' reports), but also because of the relative lack of excavations and the appraisal of the data collected.
In the Early Byzantine period substantial changes were made to the economic-social structures of the empire. The insecurity was exacerbated by the barbarian invasions; in matters religious, Christianity and the role of bishops were increasing their importance. All this has a direct impact on the urban and in general the built environment. Until the end of the 5th century the cities are usually characterized by a regular town planning: dominated by the two main roads (the decumanus and cardo maxima) that intersect at right-angles. In the city centre were found the markets, which also included major public buildings, as well as shops and health and leisure facilities. The places of national worship continued to occupy central locations. The private structures, on the other hand, were situated at the perimeter of the centre, usually organized into insulae (or blocks).
The weakening of the Local Assemblies in conjunction with the consolidation of Christianity even before the start of the 6th century helped to change the appearance of the cities. Moreover churches of large dimensions were erected without any regard to the existing urban regular planning, while at the same time the markets and forums went into decline. For the private residences, more information is known about the wealthy homes; the houses of the economically poorer classes were constructed from cheaper materials. The houses of the rich were composed of many rooms and usually featured a porticoed courtyard, or even more than one courtyard (one of which can have a portico). Even so, some of these homes have no yard, but merely a corridor in its place. The most characteristic feature of these houses is the Triclinium: this is the main reception and dining space, one of whose shorter sides is occupied by an arch within which opened decorative niches. Some houses of the period are furnished with more than one triclinium depending either on who used them (i.e. one for men, another for their womenfolk), or on the time of the year they were used. Rich houses impress with their luxurious decoration.
The surviving houses from the Middle Byzantine years and later are equally few in number and in a ruined condition. Concerning the city walls, the houses of any sort were to have no contact with them. In Byzantine texts (Kekaumenos) the description is crystal clear: "The walls of the castle must be kept free". But this principle is not always respected. The lack of urban planning gave cities and settlements a disordered appearance, with the houses sometimes being scattered about and sometimes packed cheek by jowl with fences in between. The houses were not built to any fixed ground plan, but rather were thrown up in a opportunistic way to cope with the changing needs, and mainly using cheap materials.
Certainly, economically better-off persons lived in more luxurious residences. The most common type of house here is characterized by rooms around a courtyard, but no longer with a peristyle. Usually of two storeys, the lower one was used for storage purposes. For the Late Byzantine era the best preserved examples of houses are those of Mystra, which are characterized by a predilection towards comfort, evident in the existence of hearths, toilets, stone-built stairways. The turbulent Late Byzantine period also led to the construction of fortified houses in the form of towers, while even the simpler houses had regard for their safety, e.g. those in Mouchli were provided with arrow-loops. Further, even later during the Ottoman period the houses constructed – tower-houses – retained many of the defensive elements of the towers proper: sometimes they increase their defensive capabilities by adding a cylindrical turret at a corner (a bartizan).
At the centre of people's lives was their relationship with God, the Virgin Mary and the saints. As well as in the churches, people conducted their personal communication with God also in private, in their homes. Poorer households had an icon or two, but never a chapel specifically dedicated to private worship. The piety of the people of the time is proven by other objects, highly personal, such as small portable icons, phylacteries, crosses, and amulets with religious representations. Even rings could carry an inscription, invoking the divine.
The manner of symbiosis of disparate religious and ethnic populations is an interesting phenomenon. It seems that though dwelling in the same city, such were segregated into discrete sections of the fortified cities and castles. Typical is the case of Nafplio: after the Frankish conquest a wall was put up in the city that marked out the Frankish from the Greek districts. Later too during the Ottoman period the same thing happened. In Acrocorinth, the residents lived apart: the Orthodox Christians in the space between the second and third gates, with the Muslim residents quartered in the area above the third gate.
With the passing of time, agricultural and livestock production became the main activity in the daily life of the majority of residents, within and without the walled towns and settlements. The products of these activities enabled the residents to achieve a self-sufficient way of life and offered them the possibility of commercial exploitation. Known agricultural products from the Peloponnese are wine, oil and silk. Within the walled towns and settlements too took place craft activities. One of the cities of the Peloponnese with both flourishing trade and craft workshops was Corinth. The ceramic and glass workshops of this city were famous; possibly gold processing and brass manufacture took place here too. Other cities in the Peloponnese celebrated with great acclaim in the Middle Byzantine years (notable places according to the Chronicle of the Morea) were Veligosti and Nikli. In addition to the permanent facilities conducting commercial activities (i.e. shops, workshops) in the cities there existed temporary ones, that have left but little material remains. Temporary market-places were easily accommodated outside the walls. An important contribution was made to the economy by the festivals and trade-fairs that were held in honour of a saint. According to the French version of the Chronicle of Morea, among the most famous of these, out of many others held, was that of Livadi at Vervena, at the feast of the Ascension. The Aragonese variant of the Chronicle speaks of two other trade-fairs that took place: one at a church in Nikli (perhaps that of Palaia Episkopi in Tegea), and another at church a few kilometers away.
The Castle in Art
Όλα τα κάστρα τα είδα κι ούλα τα ’δειρα,
Σαν της Ωριάς το κάστρο κάστρο δεν είδα,
Να΄χει ασημένιες πόρτες κι αργυρά κλειδιά.
Τούρκοι το πολεμούσαν χρόνους δώδεκα,
Το κάστρο δεν πατιέται δίχως προδοσιά.
In Byzantine secular and religious pictorial art of all periods, the images of fortified towns or towers are to be found on wall-paintings, on wall and floor mosaics, in manuscripts and icons, on coins and in miniature works. The depicted castles are sometimes associated with a fortified city, sometimes they are mere symbols and sometimes again they simply illustrate a theme.
Fortifications appear as images in historical texts (e.g. Σύνοψη Ιστοριών Σκυλίτζη) and in literary works (e.g. Διήγημα Αλεξάνδρου), in representations of imperial triumphs and ceremonial entries to a town, as well as in cartographic works (e.g. the Peutinger Table, and in a mosaic map from a church floor in Madaba, Jordan).
A typical example of a picture of a walled town is the likeness of Constantinople which Constantine the Great offers to the Virgin Mary in the famous mosaic in Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. In religious iconography, walls are depicted in scenes from the Old and New Testament, but also in manuscripts of patristic works.
The walled cities in Byzantine art are a continuation of those in the art of Late Antiquity. Their form remains that of "a closed enceinte of high walls with towers and a gate protected by two towers". But there also appear variations in the basic plan, in the form of the towers and in the introduction of buildings inside the enclosure. The fortified cities may form the backdrop to events that take place either within the walls or in the countryside beyond. Accordingly sometimes some part of the walls are omitted to show what is happening inside the city. And if the scene is set outside the walls, the fortified city can be represented in the background of the scene or right next to the human figures, drawn at the same scale.
Although the fortified cities and towers are usually portrayed in schematic outlines and are identified by the accompanying inscription, this does not mean that there are no accurate representations of real places. In the mosaic map of Madaba with its depiction of Jerusalem, elements of the city's urban fabric are easily identifiable: the Cardo Maxima, the main arterial route, with its colonnades, the Church of the Resurrection, which disrupts the line of the colonnade, and the gate of St. Stephen with the square in front of it.
In the famous mosaic sited in the typanum above the south entrance of the outer narthex of Hagia. Sophia in Constantinople, the Emperor Constantine I offers to the Virgin Mary an effigy of the City, whose doors are decorated with a cross and Justinian I offers her the church of Hagia Sophia. The city is presented thus as a sacred place, under the protection of Our Lady.
The variations in iconography between western medieval and Byzantine art express ideological and aesthetic perceptions but also historical realities. In the West down to the 11th-12th centuries, with the unstable borders, with the ancient Roman walls in a state of disrepair, and without strong fortified cities, the artists, in trying to convey the feeling of security, make the enclosing wall the most important element when depicting an entire city. In contrast, for the Byzantine artists the walls in the illustration of a city are a rather secondary element. Given the sense of security the walls of Constantinople and of other cities of the empire engendered, the town is mainly represented by the depiction of religious and public buildings.
In the turbulent late Byzantine period, the conditions of political and military instability that increased the importance of forts find an echo in their depictions. A typical example of this is the representation on coinage of the towers or gates, often alongside saint-protectors.
Many centuries later, valuable information on the castles is offered through the art of the post-Byzantine centuries, namely through engravings. One of them, the work of Giovanni Francesco Camocio dating around 1574, represents the castle of Akronafplia. Clearly distinguishable is the arrangement of the walls and gates, the upper and lower city corresponding accurately to that of the time, so providing information that combined with archaeological and historical evidence can contribute to the reconstruction of the image of the city then.
Apart from the visual arts, the fortifications are mentioned in Byzantine literature and specifically in historiographical works, literary texts, epigrams and descriptions of cities. After the crisis of the transitional centuries (7th-8th centuries), and especially during the late Byzantine period, in the descriptions of cities the new circumstances in which the cities had to operate are mirrored. Especial emphasis is placed on the walls: not only as they strengthen the feeling of security but also as they are considered worthy of admiration in themselves. The poet and orator of the 10th century Ioannis Geometris has dedicated a poem to a tower of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople, which is described as powerful and also highly aesthetic.
Many cities in the History of Nikitas Choniates are named as ‘with Great Towers’ (megapyrgoi), and Proussos is given the epithet ‘beautifully-towered’ (kallipyrgos). A similar treatment exists in An Encomium in Praise of Corinth written by Ioannis Evgenikos.
Descriptions exist of castles and towers, mythical or possibly influenced by other literary texts, such as the Epic of Digenis Akritas and the poem Kallimachos and Chrysorroe. The aim of these images is to stir up the emotions of "sensuousness and magic" in the readers.
For the Frankish period, the Chronicle of the Morea, a historiographical narrative in verse, provides information on the castles, medieval life and cultural exchanges, the relationship between Greece and the West and possibly the ideological background of the confrontation between them.
From the 15th century on the testimonies of foreign travellers grow thick and fast: among their impressions about the country they remark too on the castles. For Greece, individuals like Evliya Çelebi, Pouqueville, Buchon, and Leake all reported on the fortifications dominating the landscape.
A source of inspiration in folklore was the theme of the building of the medieval castle, which was seen as a difficult and tedious task. So much so that it was necessary to recompense the creation with the most important reward, namely marriage to the princess-owner of the castle. Worth noting is the fact that originally in the heart of this tradition, the choice between the two suitors is made on the one hand on the building and second on the water supply.
The castles, silent witnesses of the past, stirred and still stir deep emotional responses in people. The size of castles, their walls and towers, their cisterns have been food for inspiration to folk songs and the popular imagination in many traditional stories.
In the 20th century these .. "water-worn walls standing silent and speechless", as Kontoglou described them, exerted an irresistible pull on great artists and writers, such as Terzakis, Kazantzakis, Ouranis, Kontoglou and Tarsouli.