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Byzantine Fortifications (ePub)

Protecting the Roman Empire in the East

Ancient History Military

By Dr Nikos Kontogiannis
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 18.4 MB (.epub)
Illustrations: 40 illustrations
ISBN: 9781526710277
Published: 30th March 2022


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The Byzantine empire was one of the most powerful forces in the Mediterranean and Near East for over a thousand years. Strong military organization, in particular widespread fortifications, was essential for its defence. Yet this aspect of its history is often neglected, and no detailed overview has been published for over thirty years. That is why Nikos Kontogiannis's ambitious account of Byzantine fortifications – their construction and development and their role in times of war – is such a valuable and timely publication.

His ambitious study combines the results of decades of wide-ranging archaeological work with an account of the armies, weapons, tactics and defensive strategies of the empire throughout its long history. Fortifications built in every region of the empire are covered, from those in Mesopotamia, Syria and Africa, to those in Asia Minor, the Aegean and the Balkan peninsula.

This all-round survey is essential reading and reference for anyone with a special interest in the Byzantine empire and in the wider history of fortification.

It is a valuable and timely publication that fills a gap in the literature on this topic.

Read the Full Review Here

Medieval Sword School

Kontogiannis has set the groundwork for future studies on the subject, placing the construction of fortifications in the context of the evolving defensive strategy and technology of the Byzantine Empire. Notably, his work places the function of these fortifications beyond their military facades and explores how the architecture would have been perceived by provincial Byzantines (and outsiders) as having physical, spiritual as well as symbolic strength. This long overdue study is important for specialists of the Byzantine Empire and for those with interests in fortifications and military strategy more generally. It will remain a vital reference work for many years to come.

The Society for Medieval Archaeology - Medieval Archaeology journal vol 66.2 (Dec 2022)

Review as featured in

Casemate Magazine, September 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What made the Byzantine empire so strong? Dr. Kontogiannis's inter-disciplined work details the fortifications of the Byzantine structures, all over Mesopotamia, Syria, Asia Minor, the Balkan peninsula and Africa, to uncover their role during wartime. Fortifications built in every region of the empire are covered, from those in Mesopotamia, Syria and Africa, to those in Asia Minor, the Aegean and the Balkan peninsula.

The target audience for this book would be those interested in Byzantine history as well as military history. It is well researched and highly recommend.

NetGalley, Stephanie Bentivegna

The Roman Empire built fortifications wherever they went - Nikos's book looks in particular in those built in the Byzantine Empire - a thorough and engaging history of how the Romans protected their Empire in the Middle East.

Books Monthly

As featured in


A very interesting read this book especially if you have an interest in forts and fortifications.
A chronological look at the Byzantine empire including it's war and strategies, city walls, forts and fortifications and how they were built, renovated and/or improved, the different types of towers, gates and buttresses and their uses.

Read the full review here


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very good historical read on fortifications during ancient times. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good book to read. It’s well researched and put together to make it interesting to read.

NetGalley, Lional Jones

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a beautifully illustrated volume which covers an impressively broad time period - from early 3-4th century fortifications through the late Byzantine 13th-15th century. The unifying strategic importance, location, and development are well explained by the author in a manner which is understandable to the layperson. There are maps, line drawings and schematics, and modern photographs of ancient castles and fortifications.

The author writes engagingly. It's clear he's both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his area of expertise. It's easy to imagine he would be a gifted lecturer and instructor. Although it's accessible to the layperson, the volume is meticulously annotated throughout and the chapter notes and source annotations will provide readers with many hours of further reading. I especially liked seeing the modern photos of ancient ruins.

Five stars. This would make a superlative choice for public and school library acquisition as well as a fine addition to the home library for readers of military history, archaeology, etc.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Dr. Kontogiannis, after decades of Byzantine studies and teaching, has published a long-neglected aspect of military history. The defensive works of the Byzantine Empire. Defense against not just the expansionist Ottoman Turkish Empire, but also from the fractured remnants of the old Western Half of the Roman Empire. Very well done and worth the time.


A most enjoyable book that succeeds in explaining the construction methods of the various periods of the Byzantine Empire and also the social and military context in which they were built. Supported by many excellent colour images that complement the narrative.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Dr Nikos Kontogiannis

Dr Nikos Kontogiannis is Assistant Professor of Byzantine Archaeology and Art at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. He is a leading expert on the archaeology of the Byzantine empire and has made a special study of Byzantine fortifications and defences. His most recent publication in this area, with Michael Heslop, is a reassessment of the defences of Middle Byzantium in Greece.

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