mueth

Silke Müth (The National Museum of Denmark) - Jean-Claude Bessac (CNRS), Economical challenges of building a Geländemauer in the middle of the 4th c. BC: The city wall of Messene as an example

The city wall of Messene, a 'Gelaendemauer' of 9 km length, belonged to the strongest of its kind in the 4th c. BC and now represents one of the best preserved Greek fortifications. It protected not only the large new capital of the Messenians, but also a vast space of arable land. Moreover, Messene’s enceinte included highly representative aspects which turned it into a monumental symbol of the city’s new freedom and independence. All these superlatives raise, however, questions about the necessary means (material, workforce, time and funds) to achieve such a huge monument and about the economical challenges this implicated for its builders – questions that have been addressed by the authors while investigating this city wall in a four years’ field project.
The proposed contribution will analyse the economical background of different choices the builders made concerning building materials, quarries, ways of transport, construction techniques and masonry forms, and it will investigate the workforce, time, amount of material and funds used for the erection of towers and curtains, by using results of experimental archaeology amongst others. In this way it will become clear on the one hand that the shape of Messene’s fortification is much more influenced by economical decisions than hitherto suspected, which is also valid for many other city walls, and on the other hand the economic challenges a city wall in general represented for its community will be appraised.