A citadel is the core fortified area of a town or city. It may be a
castle in East Sussex East Sussex is a county A county is a geographical region of a country used for administrative or other purposesChambers Dictionary, L. Brookes (ed.), 2005, Chambers Harrap Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh in certain modern na ...

fortress A fortification is a military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, w ...
, or fortified center. The term is a diminutive of "city" means "little city", it’s so called because it is a smaller part of the city of which it is the defensive core.
Ancient Sparta
Ancient Sparta
had a citadel, as did many other Greek cities and towns. In a
fortification A fortification is a military construction or building designed for the defense of territories in warfare, and is also used to establish rule in a region during peacetime. The term is derived from Latin ''fortis'' ("strong") and ''facere'' ( ...
with bastions, the citadel is the strongest part of the system, sometimes well inside the outer walls and bastions, but often forming part of the outer wall for the sake of economy. It is positioned to be the last line of defence, should the enemy breach the other components of the fortification system. The functions of the police and the army, as well as the army
barracks Barracks are usually a group of long buildings built to house military personnel or laborers. The English word comes via French from an old Spanish word "barraca" (hut), originally referring to temporary shelters or huts for various people and ani ...
were developed in the citadel.


3300–1300 BCE

Some of the oldest known structures which have served as citadels were built by the
Indus Valley Civilisation oxen for pulling a cart and the presence of the chicken The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus''), a subspecies of the red junglefowl, is a type of domestication, domesticated fowl, originally from Asia. Rooster or cock is a term fo ...
, where citadels represented a centralised authority. Citadels in Indus Valley were almost 12 meters tall. The purpose of these structures, however, remains debated. Though the structures found in the ruins of
were walled, it is far from clear that these structures were defensive against enemy attacks. Rather, they may have been built to divert flood waters. Several settlements in
Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia and the westernmost protrusion of the Asian continent. It makes up the majority of modern-day Turkey. The region ...
, including the Assyrian city of Kaneš in modern-day
Kültepe Kültepe ( Turkish: "Ash Hill" and fa, کل تپه ''koltape''), also known as Kanesh or Nesha, is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either p ...
, featured citadels. Kaneš' citadel contained the city's palace, temples, and official buildings. The citadel of the Greek city of
Mycenae Mycenae ( ; grc, Μυκῆναι or , ''Mykē̂nai'' or ''Mykḗnē'') is an archaeological site An archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric Prehisto ...
was built atop a highly-defensible rectangular hill and was later surrounded by walls in order to increase its defensive capabilities.

800 BCE – 400 CE

Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a civilization belonging to a period of History of Greece, Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of Classical Antiquity, antiquity ( AD 600). This era was ...
, the
, which literally means "high city", placed on a commanding eminence, was important in the life of the people, serving as a refuge and stronghold in peril and containing military and food supplies, the
shrine A shrine ( la, scrinium "case or chest for books or papers"; Old French Old French (, , ; French language, Modern French: ) was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. Rather than a unified Dialect#D ...
of the god and a royal
palace , the official residence of Emperor of Japan The Emperor of Japan is the head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state (polity), state#Foakes, Foakes, pp. 110–11 " he head o ...
. The most well known is the
Acropolis of Athens The Acropolis of Athens is an ancient citadel located on a rocky outcrop above the city of Athens , image_skyline = File:Athens Montage L.png, center, 275px, alt=Athens montage. Clicking on an image in the picture caus ...
, but nearly every Greek city-state had one – the Acrocorinth famed as a particularly strong fortress. In a much later period, when Greece was ruled by the
Latin Empire
Latin Empire
, the same strong points were used by the new feudal rulers for much the same purpose. In the first millennium BCE, the Castro culture emerged in northwestern Portugal and Spain in the region extending from the Douro river up to the Minho River, Minho, but soon expanding north along the coast, and east following the river valleys. It was an autochthonous evolution of Atlantic Bronze Age communities. In 2008, the origins of the Celts were attributed to this period by John T. Koch and supported by Barry Cunliffe. The Ave River Valley in Portugal was the core region of this culture,Armando Coelho Ferreira da Silva. ''A Cultura Castreja no Noroeste de Portugal''. Museu Arqueológico da Citânia de Sanfins, 1986 with a large number of small settlements (the ''castros''), but also settlements known as citadels or oppida by the Roman conquerors. These had several rings of walls and the Roman conquest of the citadels of Abobriga, Lambriaca and Cinania around 138 BCE was possible only by prolonged siege. Ruins of notable citadels still exist, and are known by archaeologists as Citânia de Briteiros, Citânia de Sanfins, Cividade de Terroso and Cividade de Bagunte.

167–160 BCE

Rebels who took power in the city but with the citadel still held by the former rulers could by no means regard their tenure of power as secure. One such incident played an important part in the history of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. The Hellenistic garrison of Jerusalem and local supporters of the Seleucids held out for many years in the Acra (fortress), Acra citadel, making Maccabean rule in the rest of Jerusalem precarious. When finally gaining possession of the place, the Maccabeans pointedly destroyed and razed the Acra, though they constructed another citadel for their own use in a different part of Jerusalem.


At various periods, and particularly during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the citadel – having its own fortifications, independent of the city walls – was the last defence of a besieged army, often held after the town had been conquered. Locals and defending armies have often held out citadels long after the city had fallen. For example, in the 1543 Siege of Nice the Ottoman forces led by Hayreddin Barbarossa, Barbarossa conquered and pillaged the town and took many captives, but the citadel held out. In the Philippines, the Ivatan people of the northern islands of Batanes often built fortifications to protect themselves during times of war. They built their so-called ''idjangs'' on hills and elevated areas. These fortifications were likened to European castles because of their purpose. Usually, the only entrance to the castles would be via a rope ladder that would only be lowered for the villagers and could be kept away when invaders arrived.

1600 to the present

In time of war the citadel in many cases afforded retreat to the people living in the areas around the town. However, citadels were often used also to protect a garrison or political power from the inhabitants of the town where it was located, being designed to ensure loyalty from the town that they defended. This was used, for example, during the Dutch Wars of 1664–1667, King Charles II of England constructed a Royal Citadel at Royal Citadel, Plymouth, Plymouth, an important channel port which needed to be defended from a possible naval attack. However, due to Plymouth's support for the Roundhead, Parliamentarians in the then-recent English Civil War, the Plymouth Citadel was so designed that its guns could fire on the town as well as on the sea approaches. Barcelona had a great citadel built in 1714 to intimidate the Catalan people, Catalans against repeating their mid-17th- and early-18th-century rebellions against the Spanish central government. In the 19th century, when the political climate had liberalized enough to permit it, the people of Barcelona had the citadel torn down, and replaced it with the city's main central park, the Parc de la Ciutadella. A similar example is the Citadella in Budapest, Hungary. The attack on the Bastille in the French Revolution – though afterwards remembered mainly for the release of the handful of prisoners incarcerated there – was to considerable degree motivated by the structure's being a Royal citadel in the midst of revolutionary Paris. Similarly, after Garibaldi's overthrow of House of Bourbon, Bourbon rule in Palermo, during the 1860 Unification of Italy, Palermo's Castellamare Citadel – symbol of the hated and oppressive former rule – was ceremoniously demolished. Following Belgium declaring independence in 1830, a Dutch garrison under General David Hendrik Chassé held out in Antwerp Citadel between 1830 and 1832, while the city had already become part of the independent Belgium. The Siege of the Alcázar in the Spanish Civil War, in which the Nationalists held out against a much larger Republican force for two months until relieved, shows that in some cases a citadel can be effective even in modern warfare; a similar case is the Battle of Huế during the Vietnam war, where a North Vietnamese Army division held the citadel of Huế for 26 days against roughly their own numbers of much better-equipped US and South Vietnamese troops.

Modern usage

The Citadelle of Québec (the construction was started in 1673 and completed in 1820) still survives as the largest citadel still in official military operation in North America. It is home to the Royal 22nd Regiment of the Canadian Army and forms part of the Ramparts of Quebec City dating back to 1620s. Since the mid 20th century, citadels commonly enclose military command and control centres, rather than cities or strategic points of defence on the boundaries of a country. These modern citadels are built to protect the command centre from heavy attacks, such as aerial or nuclear bombardment. The military citadels under London in the UK, including the massive underground complex Pindar beneath the Ministry of Defence (United Kingdom), Ministry of Defence, are examples, as is the Cheyenne Mountain nuclear bunker in the US.

Naval term

On armoured warships, the heavily armoured section of the ship that protects the ammunition and machinery spaces is called the armoured citadel. A modern naval interpretation refers to the heaviest protected part of the hull as "the vitals", and the citadel is the semi-armoured freeboard above the vitals. Generally Anglo-American and German language follow this while Russian sources/language refer to "the vitals" as цитадел "tsitadel". Likewise Russian literature often refers to the turret of a tank as the 'tower'. The safe room on a ship is also called a citadel.

List of citadels

* Amman Citadel, Amman, Jordan * Antwerp Citadel, Belgium (demolished) * Bam Citadel, Iran * Cairo Citadel, Egypt * Citadel of Aleppo, Syria (partly destroyed, being rebuilt) * Citadel of Erbil, Iraq (partially ruined) * Citadel of Ghazni, Afghanistan * Citadel of Liège, Belgium (partially demolished) * Citadel Počitelj, Bosnia and Herzegovina * Citadel Prins Frederik, Indonesia (demolished) * Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, Syria (partially ruined) * Citadella, Hungary * Cittadella (Gozo), Malta * Citadelle Laferrière, Haiti * Citadelle of Quebec, Canada * Citadel Hill (Fort George), Halifax Citadel, Canada * Herat Citadel, Afghanistan * Intramuros, Philippines * Jerusalem Citadel or Tower of David, Israel * Landskrona Citadel, Sweden * Mainz Citadel, Germany * Petersberg Citadel, Germany * Royal Citadel, Plymouth, United Kingdom * Spandau Citadel, Germany * Verne Citadel, United Kingdom * Warsaw Citadel, Poland

See also

* * Alcazaba a term for Moorish citadels in Spain * Alcázar * Arx (Roman) * Fujian Tulou * Kasbah a synonym * Kremlin (fortification) * Presidio * Rocca (architecture)


External links

* {{Authority control Fortifications by type Military strategy