Theodosian Walls

By the Editors of the Madain Project

  • This article is a stub as it does not provide effective content depth for the core subject discussed herein. We're still working to expand it, if you'd like to help with it you can request expansion. This tag should be removed, once the article satisfies the content depth criteria.
    What is this?

The Theodosian Walls of Constantinople were a series of defensive stone walls that protected the city of Constantinople (modern day Istanbul in Türkiye), constructed during the reign of Emperor Theodosius II (reigned 402–450 CE), after whom they were named.


During the thousand years, the Byzantines manned these walls and fortifications, they were forced to constantly repair and rebuilt these structures, as did the Ottomans after them. Each section, part and structure of the wall is an amalgamation of generations of construction work embedding elements of not only Roman and Byzantine periods by of later Ottoman era as well.

A number of period-inscriptions embedded in the walls and towers provide information about the construction and rebuilding works along with the name of the Roman of the last emperor to have work done on this part of the fortifications.



Marble Tower
The marble tower (Mermer Kule), also known as the "Tower of Basil and Constantine", is the last fortification tower before arriving the point where the walls on the shores of Marmara Sea unites with the land side walls located in the west end. It is in the immediate vicinity of Seven Tower fortress (Yedikule) and Golden Gate (Altin Kapi). The founations of the Marble Tower were in the sea when itwas first built, as indicated by the lower courses of marble from which the tower derives its current name. However, over the centuries as the coastline moved further south the tower became land-bound.

The four-storied tower building was constructed with constructed with repurposed material from several earlier structures. Among those, fluting pilasters rising on the large sub-basement and stones with connection holes on their surgaces can distinctly identified. Top sections of the tower however were constructed in Eastern Roman style brick and stone courses. Its interior is ornamented with valuable stones and marbles and small bush-shaped pretrusions have been added to the corners where the walls join together.

The Mermer Kule is most likely not an original element of the sea walls; it was added later. Although it is said that it belongs to the eighth to twelfth century CE, It must have been added later as indicated by the construction materials. Existance of the monograms and symbols, which belong to Paleciogos and Kantakcuzencs familes on its walls; its is a strong possibility that it was built during the restoration of the walls with materials collected from other structures as a precaution against a possible siege by Bayezid I in the fourteenth century CE.

On the inner side of the mermer kule a small stronghold complex, part of which survives today, was constructed with storerooms, cisterns and other supporting structures suggesting that it was converted in to a sea-pavilion at some point during the later Byzantine period.


Tower 1
Part of the inner and larger walls. The tower number 1, of the ninety six towers of the Theodosian Walls, shows distinct signs of modern restorations. This tower has a Greek inscription stretching across its facade near the top. The inscription, belonging to the famous Basil II and Constantine from the eleventh century CE, read "Tower of Basil and Constantine, faithful Emperors in Christ, pious Kings of the Romans".


Tower 2
The tower number 2, situated some fifty meter north of the tower 1, is in a relatively less preserved condition today.


Tower 3
Tower number 3 is situated some sixty meters to the north-east of tower 2.


Tower 4
Tower number 4, situated some sixty meters to the north-east of tower 3, bears an inscription from either Romanus II or Romanus III dating back to the tenth of eleventh century CE. The inscription claims that the tower was built from scratch, which is plausible since the size and shape of the structure is quite different from its neighbouring towers.



First Military Gate
The so-called military gate (Askeri Sur Kapısı) or the first military gate is situated at the foot of the tower 1. The primary purpose of this particular gate was to allow troops access to the city, as the civilians were not allowed to use this gate. This gate is situated on the north side of the tower, in the inner walls. Little pieces of decorations and carvings have survived today. A notable symboly is a christogram on the inner facade of the arch.


Golden Gate
The Golden Gate (Altınkapı or Yaldızlıkapı) was the primary entrance to the Byzantine city used by the Roman Emperors. Originally the gate consisted of a single-portal, built by the Emperor Theodosius I as a triumphal arch, which later became a gate in 412 CE. Later on emperor Theodosius II added the two flanking smaller gates as well. These were joined with walls of the city built by the governor Anthemius.

It was one of the major gates that allowed access over the moat and in to the city. The gate was originally a monumental triumphal archway designed for imperial processions.

Gallery Want to use our images?

See Also


Let's bring some history to your inbox

Signup for our monthly newsletter / online magazine.
No spam, we promise.

Privacy Policy