5 Things Every Fortified City in the Ancient Near East Needed
In the ancient Near East, in order to get from Mesopotamia to Egypt or from Egypt to Mesopotamia, one had to pass through the land of Israel. The two major highways used for trade and for military campaigns were the Via Maris (the Way of the Sea) and the International Highway (also known as the King’s Highway). As the name suggests, the Via Maris ran along the Mediterranean coast while the International Highway was located in the Transjordan. These two highways were connected by several passes which ran through the valleys of the hill country of Israel. One of those major passes was the Megiddo pass, which traveled through the Jezreel Valley. The pass is named for the city of Megiddo located on the western side of the valley. It is not surprising that several major battles have taken place at Megiddo.
Now, imagine you are the king of Israel. The swath of land through which anyone had to travel to get from one major nation (Egypt) to another (Syria, Mesopotamia) was your land. Who would be traveling that road? Yes, merchants, but also armies as one major nation tried to conquer another. So, as the king of this little strip of land, you would want to protect your land and most importantly your capital city. An army approaching from the north and passing through the Megiddo Pass would first have to pass the strategically located city of Megiddo before reaching the capital city of Jerusalem. Thus, as king, you would want Megiddo to be fortified, right? Solomon did. (See 1 Kings 9:15-17.)
Archaeological excavations have uncovered several finds that indicate that Megiddo was indeed a fortified city.
What do you do to keep people out of your city? Close the gate…
...and surround it with a wall!
Every army needed horses, and the stables found at Megiddo provide evidence that they had them here. Stone pillars where the horses were tied and troughs for food and water remain at the site of Megiddo.
In case of siege by a foreign army, surplus food would be a necessity. One such food storage facility has been uncovered at Megiddo.
Prior to the construction of the water system at Megiddo, residents would have to leave the safety of the city to get water from a spring. The 30-35 meter shaft and 70 meter tunnel leading to the spring allowed residents to get water without leaving the safety of the city. (If you get a chance to hike through the tunnel do it!)
- Mazar, Amihai. Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10,000-586 B.C.E. New York: Doubleday, 1990.