Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 2
THE INVENTION OF WALLS

EVEN THOUGH we do not know what Enoch, Cain's city, looked like, we may be reasonably certain that it was surrounded by walls.

Up to a century or two ago, in most of the world a city without walls was as rare as a European garden without a fence is today. The English word town is related to the German word Zaun -- meaning "fence". The town is the fenced-in or walled-in space. The customary term in speaking of a city dweller in the Roman Empire was intramuranus -- he who lives within the walls.

The German word Bürger serves as a reminder that once a town or city and a burgh were often practically the same. And in German, the territory of a city is still referred to as Burgfrieden, even though for a long time peace within the city has not been safeguarded by fortified walls. And nobody thinks it odd if the Lord Mayor of a metropolis whose walls were torn down 150 years ago still welcomes distinguished visitors "inside the walls of our city". Anything as closely connected for over 7,000 years as city and walls may have become disconnected in the reality of 150 years of industrial age, but it tends to live on in the realm of speech.

The beginning of it all was the brick. During the fourth millenium B.C. bricks of mud came into use in Mesopotamia. This was a tremendous innovation for a country that had no stones. Sundried bricks were used for ordinary structures; they were strengthened by the addition of burnt bricks in buildings of special importance. Now each larger settlement could have walls for its protection.

But hardly had man developed the skill to make bricks, or to hew stone blocks into shape, when he was no longer satisfied with building what we would call a wall today. He now employed his ingenuity to build fortifications whose dimensions seem almost unbelievable to us.

About 2700 B.C., for example, the big city of Uruk in southern Babylonia surrounded itself with a double wall nearly six miles long and studded with 900 defence towers.

About 2500 B.C., the citizens of Hazor (now Tell Wakkas) in Canaan built a brick wall on stone foundations around their imperial city. It was more than 24 feet thick. "The cities are great and walled

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