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Walls of Nicaea

The Hellenistic and Roman walls of Nicaea have disappeared, with only traces of triumphal arches of Vespasian and Hadrian which were incorporated into the city gates. The earliest phase of these walls were begun Gallienus (253-268) and completed Claudius Gothius (267-270) when the region was threatened by the Goths. These walls formed an irregular pentagon around 5 km long. The original wall was single, perhaps with a ditch. The semicircular towers were about 60-70 meters apart. Twin towers flanked the gates. The walls were damaged during the Arab siege in 727, requiring substantial repairs. The walls west of the Constantinople Gate were completely rebuilt, during which time the inscription of Leo III (716-741) and his Constantine are recorded as builders, executed by curopalates Artavasdos. Michael III (842-868) made additions to the walls, in connection to a major program of defense in Asia Minor. This involved added new towers between the old towers on the southeast and east walls. Rebel Bardas Skleros besieged the city in 978, destroying a tower near the south gate. Alexios Komnenos erected a small bastion, which was faced with spolia from a Seljuk cemetery.  The wall was damaged in the earthquake in 1065, thus requiring extensive repairs. Extensive work took place under the Laskarids when Nicaea was the capital of the empire. In particular, two great corner towers were built on the southern wall. John Vatatzes added an outer wall with towers. 

Constantinople Gate (İstanbul Kapısı)
Lefke Gate
Southern Gate (Yenişehir Kapısı)
Southwestern Gate
Inscription of Leo III and Artavasdos

☩ ἔνθα θεεικῇ βοηθείᾳ τὸ τῶν ἐχθρῶν καταισχύνθη θράσος,

ἐκεῖ οἱ φιλώχριστοι ἡμῶν βασιλεῖς Λέων κ(αὶ) Κωνσταντῖνος ἀνε-

καίνησαν πόθῳ τὴν πόλιν Νήκαιαν ἀνεγίρανταις διὰ τῆς τοῦ ἔργου

ἐπιδείξεως νηκητικὸν ἀναστήσανταις πύργον κεντινάρι{σ}-

ων {κεντινάριων}· καὶ μόχθῳ ἐπληρω[φόρη]σεν Ἀρτάυασδος πανεύφ(ημος) πατρίκ(ιος) κοροπαλάτ(ης).

“At the place where, with divine help, the insolence of the enemy was put to shame, there our Christ-loving emperors Leo and Constantine restored with zeal the city of Nicaea, having erected in demonstration of their deed a trophy of victory by setting up a kentenarion tower, which Artabasdos, the glorious patrikios and curopalates, completed by his toil”.                                (Translation from Mango)
Tower of Theodore Laskaris and Bastion of Alexios Komnenos
Gate Photo by Paolo Monti (1962).jpg

Constantinople Gate Photo by Paolo Monti (1962)

Gate Photo by Paolo Monti (1962) 2.jpg

Constantinople Gate Photo by Paolo Monti (1962)

Iznik City Walls  1870s  G. Berggren Pho

Photo by Guillaume Berggren (1870s-1880s)


Photo of Constantinople Gate by Guillaume Berggren (1870s-1880s)

4260 - Istanbul Gate, Iznik  Guillaume B

Photo of Constantinople Gate by Guillaume Berggren (1870s-1880s)

Northern Gate by Charles Texier (1882).j

Constantinople Gate by Charles Texier (1882)

Lefke Gate by Charles Texier (1882).jpg

Lefke Gate by Charles Texier (1882)

Yenisehir Gate by Charles Texier (1882).

Yenişehir Gate by Charles Texier (1882)


General view of Nicaea by Léon de Laborde (1838)


Lefke Gate by Léon de Laborde (1838)


Constantinople Gate by Léon de Laborde (1838)

From the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493).jpg

Nicaea as depicted in the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493)


Nicaea: A Byzantine Capital and Its Praises by Clive Foss

The Archaeology of Byzantine Anatolia: From the End of Late Antiquity until the Coming of the Turks edited by P. Niewohner

Byzantine Architecture by Cyril Mango

Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture by ​Richard Krautheimer 

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium edited by Alexander Kazhdan


Nicaea Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

Hagia Sophia in Nicaea Album (Byzantine Legacy Flickr)

David Talbot-Rice in Nicaea (BEMA)

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