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Territorial Defense and History

The study of Attic forts, and of rural Greek forts in general, is most properly concerned with the history of the settlement and exploitation of outlying regions and with the changing relationships of these regions to the state as a whole. Garrison forts played only a limited role in the strategies for territorial defense. against an imminent general invasion. That role was essentially no different from that of the urban enceinte on a smaller scale, and the historical evolution of rural forts therefore parallels the history of urban fortifications. Herein lies the resolution of the paradox noted above, in which fortresses were shown to be fundamental to the defensive institutions and concerns of a state yet, under the threat of invasion, to be primarily passive centers of resistance.

Misconceptions have long clouded the assessment of these functions and concerns, usually in the form of ascribing a more specialized and potent historical role to fortresses than our sources support. Those who have hesitated to accept such assumptions have, on the other hand, generally been reluctant to discuss the subject of the historical role of rural fortifications in detail. Uncertainties about dates and functions have seemed to obviate the possibility of any but the most generalized comments. Yvon Garlan warned of the pitfalls awaiting those who would inevitably be drawn to the challenge of recovering history from the abundant remains of fortifications in the Greek countryside. He illustrates the situation by reference to Attica in particular:

Les fortifications de l'Attique ont été étudiées avec plus de soin et d'esprit critique, bien que, faute d'avoir été systématiquement et soigneusement fouillées, elles soient encore loin d'offrir à l'historien le "butin" qu'il en attend.[63]

It is indeed inevitable that historians turn to the archaeological wealth of the Greek countryside in search of fragments and aspects of history that are not fully represented in literary sources. Among these vestiges attention comes, first and foremost, to the substantial remains of garrison forts. But these remains have for the most part eluded attempts by


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historians and archaeologists to associate them with precise historical moments. This is to be expected, since as the foregoing discussion has demonstrated, such fortifications represented generic responses to perennial conditions. Only rarely do archaeological remains occur in a form that allows a direct and demonstrable correspondence with historical episodes. Such exceptions do exist in the realm of rural fortifications, in the Attic countryside and elsewhere. In every case, unlike regular garrison forts, these fortifications represent specific and even unique responses to special conditions.[64] The Dema wall is chief among these special measures in classical Attica, and an understanding of this fortification promises to show how the Athenians of the fourth century reacted differently from Perikles and his contemporaries to the threat of an invasion of Attica.


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