Fortification

Maiden Castle in 1935. The Iron Age hillfort was first built in 600 BC.

A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to solidify rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from the Latin fortis ("strong") and facere ("to make").

From very early history to modern times, walls have often been necessary for cities to survive in an ever-changing world of invasion and conquest. Some settlements in the Indus Valley Civilization were the first small cities to be fortified. In ancient Greece, large stone walls had been built in Mycenaean Greece, such as the ancient site of Mycenae (famous for the huge stone blocks of its 'cyclopean' walls). A Greek phrourion was a fortified collection of buildings used as a military garrison, and is the equivalent of the Roman castellum or English fortress. These constructions mainly served the purpose of a watch tower, to guard certain roads, passes, and lands that might threaten the kingdom. Though smaller than a real fortress, they acted as a border guard rather than a real strongpoint to watch and maintain the border.

The art of setting out a military camp or constructing a fortification traditionally has been called "castramentation" since the time of the Roman legions. Fortification is usually divided into two branches: permanent fortification and field fortification. There is also an intermediate branch known as semi-permanent fortification. Castles are fortifications which are regarded as being distinct from the generic fort or fortress in that they are a residence of a monarch or noble and command a specific defensive territory.

Roman forts and hill forts were the main antecedents of castles in Europe, which emerged in the 9th century in the Carolingian Empire. The Early Middle Ages saw the creation of some towns built around castles.

Medieval-style fortifications were largely made obsolete by the arrival of cannons in the 14th century. Fortifications in the age of black powder evolved into much lower structures with greater use of ditches and earth ramparts that would absorb and disperse the energy of cannon fire. Walls exposed to direct cannon fire were very vulnerable, so the walls were sunk into ditches fronted by earth slopes to improve protection.

The arrival of explosive shells in the 19th century led to yet another stage in the evolution of fortification. Star forts did not fare well against the effects of high explosive, and the intricate arrangements of bastions, flanking batteries and the carefully constructed lines of fire for the defending cannon could be rapidly disrupted by explosive shells. Steel-and-concrete fortifications were common during the 19th and early 20th centuries. However the advances in modern warfare since World War I have made large-scale fortifications obsolete in most situations.

Demilitarized zones along borders are arguably another type of fortification, although a passive kind, providing a buffer between potentially hostile militaries.

Nomenclature

Many US military installations are known as forts, although they are not always fortified. Indeed, during the pioneering era of North America, many outposts on the frontiers, even non-military outposts, were referred to generically as forts. Larger military installations may be called fortresses; smaller ones were once known as fortalices. The word fortification can also refer to the practice of improving an area's defence with defensive works. City walls are fortifications but are not necessarily called fortresses.

The art of setting out a military camp or constructing a fortification traditionally has been called castramentation since the time of the Roman legions. The art/science of laying siege to a fortification and of destroying it is commonly called siegecraft or siege warfare and is formally known as poliorcetics. In some texts this latter term also applies to the art of building a fortification.

Fortification is usually divided into two branches: permanent fortification and field fortification. Permanent fortifications are erected at leisure, with all the resources that a state can supply of constructive and mechanical skill, and are built of enduring materials. Field fortifications—for example breastworks—and often known as fieldworks or earthworks, are extemporized by troops in the field, perhaps assisted by such local labour and tools as may be procurable and with materials that do not require much preparation, such as earth, brushwood and light timber, or sandbags (see sangar). An example of field fortification was the construction of Fort Necessity by George Washington in 1754.

There is also an intermediate branch known as semi-permanent fortification. This is employed when in the course of a campaign it becomes desirable to protect some locality with the best imitation of permanent defences that can be made in a short time, ample resources and skilled civilian labour being available. An example of this is the construction of Roman forts in England and in other Roman territories where camps were set up with the intention of staying for some time, but not permanently.

Castles are fortifications which are regarded as being distinct from the generic fort or fortress in that it describes a residence of a monarch or noble and commands a specific defensive territory. An example of this is the massive medieval castle of Carcassonne.