Why Were Cities Walled in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, cities were often walled to provide protection from outside threats. These walls were made of various materials such as stone, brick, or earth and could be several feet thick and towering in height.

But why were these walls necessary? Let’s explore the reasons behind the construction of city walls.

Protection from Invasion

One of the primary reasons for building walls around a city was to protect it from invasion. In ancient times, when wars were fought with swords and arrows, a wall provided a significant advantage to the defenders. The wall made it difficult for attackers to enter the city and allowed defenders to shoot at them from above.

Preventing Theft

Another reason for building walls was to prevent theft. Cities often had valuable resources such as food, livestock, and precious metals that raiders might want to steal. Walls provided an additional layer of security against such attacks.

Controlling Trade

Walls around cities also allowed rulers to control trade by creating checkpoints where they could levy taxes on goods entering and leaving the city. This was an important source of revenue for many ancient cities.

Creating a Sense of Community

Beyond their practical uses, city walls also served symbolic purposes. They created a sense of community by separating citizens from outsiders. Within these walls, people felt safer and more connected to one another.

  • The Great Wall of China: One of the most famous examples of ancient city walls is the Great Wall of China which stretches over 13,000 miles.
  • The Walls of Babylon: Another famous example is the Walls of Babylon which were said to have been over 300 feet tall.
  • The Walls of Jericho: The biblical story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho tells how the walls of Jericho fell after a long siege.


In conclusion, the construction of city walls in ancient times had a variety of practical and symbolic purposes. They provided protection from invasion and theft, allowed rulers to control trade, and created a sense of community. Today, many ancient city walls still stand as testament to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of our ancestors.