Famous border walls throughout history
President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it was one of his most controversial propositions and remains among his most polarizing policy goals.
Two years into his term, 52% of Americans oppose the border wall and 45% approve of it, and the debate doesn’t seem likely to resolve any time soon. The 35-day government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, was waged over funding for the wall since it became clear that money would not be coming from Mexico. Trump has since proposed declaring a national emergency to fund and build the wall.
The question many are asking is whether a border wall would work. While supporters argue it’s a necessary and effective measure to prevent illegal immigration at the southern border, critics believe the money could be used more effectively, and that the wall itself is unbecoming for a country that prides itself on being founded by immigrants.
But Trump is not the first person to propose building some kind of border barrier. Since around 8000 B.C., people have been building walls to protect themselves and keep others away—with varying levels of success. Since World War II, the world has gone from seven border fences to 77. Stacker compiled a list of 30 famous border walls from the Stone Age to the Information Age to see what lessons can be learned from the long history of building walls to keep others out.
Here, find out if the mighty Great Wall of China did its job, which country was named for a famous walled city, and how the European migrant crisis is reshaping that continent’s borders.
Wall of Jericho
Jericho, located in the modern-day West Bank, is one of the oldest continuously occupied settlements in the world. The famous stone wall that surrounds the city was the first of its kind; it’s believed residents of the growing city built it in 8000 B.C. to fortify the area. The walls around the city have been destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout history, such as in the biblical Battle of Jericho.
Amorite Wall/Wall of Mardu
The Amorite Wall represents one of the world’s first border walls, 155 miles long and 29 feet thick, built in the 21st century B.C. during the reign of Shulgi. The border stretched along the eastern border of Sumeria in the city of Ur. Because it didn’t extend around all of the kingdom, however, nomadic Amorite invaders were able to simply walk around it. Ur was overtaken in the 20th century B.C., heralding the beginning of the end for Sumeria.
Walls of Troy
This city, made famous by the epic Greek poem "The Iliad,” was long thought to be fictional. In the 19th century, German archeologist Hermann Schliemann began his quest to find the famed walled city. He successfully located the ruins in Hisarlik, Turkey, in 1870. Archeologists have since discovered that Troy was rebuilt eight times between 2700 B.C. and around 1100 B.C.; the city that was destroyed by letting the Trojan Horse past its thick walls was the sixth.
Great Wall of China
It took more than 1,000 years to build the longest border wall in the world, finally completed in the third century B.C. when several smaller walls were joined together. The emperor hoped to prevent attacks from nomadic tribes, but it was only somewhat effective as invaders would just ride around the wall or bribe guards to let them through. Rulers during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) rebuilt parts of the wall and created the iconic landmark thousands of tourists visit every day.
Walls of Babylon
King Hammurabi built the first walls in the ancient city of Babylon in 1792 B.C., but they became famous after Nebuchadnezzar II built three walls around the city over 1,000 years later. They were an important defense mechanism, but more importantly, they were impressive and beautiful. The city’s entrance, Ishtar’s Gate, was long considered one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. Tourists can still visit a replica of the gate, but the war in Iraq destroyed much of the original.
Long Walls of Athens
The Long Walls connected Athens to its port in Piraeus, protecting the city-state from the effects of sieges by making sure they always had a safe connection to the sea. The walls were destroyed by Sparta after the Athenians lost the Peloponnesian War in 403 B.C., but the city quickly rebuilt them once power was reclaimed. A Roman general destroyed them in 86 A.D, though a few traces are still visible today.
In 122 A.D., Roman emperor Hadrian gave the orders to build this 83-mile long wall on the northwest edge of his empire to separate Roman citizens from the "barbarians.” His successor ordered the construction of a new wall several miles away, but within 20 years, Roman soldiers returned to man Hadrian’s Wall through the end of the Roman empire 300 years later. The wall has since served as a popular tourist attraction and as inspiration for the wall in the "Game of Thrones” books and TV series.
Romans Walls of Lugo
Romans built the walls of Lugo in the third century to protect the most important parts of the city of Lugo from Germanic invaders and other local tribes. These walls, which stand 8 to 12 meters high (one meter is about 3.3 feet) and enclose 4.2 acres, are the best-preserved examples of the Roman empire’s military construction. Lugo is still a thriving city in Galicia, Spain, and the walls are a popular tourist attraction.
Walls of Constantinople/Theodosian
Constantine the Great first constructed the walls around the new capital of the Roman empire, but it wasn’t until the reign of Theodosius II that they became the largest, strongest fortifications of the ancient world. Designed to make the city impregnable, the walls withstood 800 years of enemy sieges and earthquakes. They only fell in 1204 when attackers entered through an open door, and large parts remain standing in Istanbul, Turkey.
Great Wall of Gorgan ('Red Snake')
Nicknamed for the red stone used to build it, the Great Wall of Gorgon was built in the fifth century to protect the fertile city of Hyrcania from the White Huns who raided it for its resources. Once the largest defensive structure ever built, it seems to have been successful at stopping raiders before it was mysteriously abandoned 200 years after it was built. Earth and sand covered it in the centuries since and it was almost forgotten before archeologists discovered it in 1999.2018 All rights reserved.