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The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by pretty impressive walls built by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1535–1542. The question is: why? Why build walls around a city which is not on a border and did not have, as far as I can tell, any military significance for the Ottomans?

Or was some sort of Mameluk resurgence feared? Persian invasion?

Was this purely a vanity project?

Were there other similar projects of walling cities in the hinterland in the Ottoman empire?

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    It had religious significance though. The Portuguese were active in the area around that time, perhaps there is a connection. – Tomas By Oct 22 '20 at 11:03
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    I think this page from Israel’s Antiquities Authority answers your question: antiquities.org.il/jerusalemWalls/hstry_12_eng.asp – J Asia Oct 22 '20 at 11:20
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    @MarkC.Wallace: The quoted link boils down to: "He rebuilt the walls for every reason you might imagine - and a couple more for good measure." Hardly definitive in either statement or reasoning. – Pieter Geerkens Oct 22 '20 at 11:48
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    @MarkC.Wallace The key sentence is: "To this day the reason the city walls were erected are still not known for certain. It is commonly believed, as E. Schiller and others have suggested, that the function of the city wall was not primarily military; rather it was meant to delimit the Holy City on the one hand, and protect its residents against raids by Bedouins and marauders on the other". Then, as Pieter notes, a few alternative possibilities are mentioned. – sempaiscuba Oct 22 '20 at 12:05
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    @sempaiscuba, and/or J Asia - That seems like it was difficult enough to dig up and synthesize that its probably worthy of an answer... – T.E.D. Oct 22 '20 at 15:17
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From Israel's Antiquities Authority:

To this day the reason the city walls were erected are still not known for certain. It is commonly believed, as E. Schiller and others have suggested, that the function of the city wall was not primarily military; rather it was meant to delimit the Holy City on the one hand, and protect its residents against raids by Bedouins and marauders on the other. This is attested to by among other things, the thickness of the walls, which at just 2.5 m wide is substantially less than that of the Hasmonean city walls that were 4-5 meters thick, and this is despite the fact that at the time the walls were being built cannons were already an essential weapon in warfare.

M. Ben-Dov proposes two other reasons for the construction of the city wall: 1) to protect against a renewed crusade by Carlos V, King of Spain, out of fear he wanted to conquer Jerusalem and 2) to reinforce Jerusalem from a religious standpoint so as to strengthen Muslim interests over the Christian interests in the city and thus "to win the encouragement of the vanquished Muslim population" (M. Ben-Dov 1983. P. 85). And in another place, "Jerusalem's fortifications were meant to promote the military goals of defending the city against powerful regular army forces and therefore their plan is excellent and many resources were invested in their construction. But no less important than this was the holiness of Jerusalem in the eyes of Islam… "(Ibid. p. 99)

References:

  • On E. Schiller - 1989 The Golan and the Battle of Gamla. In: M. Inbar, E. Schiller (eds.) Ramat Ha-Golan (Ariel 50–51):77–81 (Hebrew)

  • On M Ben-Dov 1983 - The Western Wall (Hakotel) (Adama Books, 1983)

Complete list of references from the site.

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    Also. if anyone is interested, the second of the listed references, The Western Wall by M Ben-Dov, is available to borrow from Internet Archive. – sempaiscuba Oct 23 '20 at 12:03
  • With all due respect, Ben-Dov seems to me to be off the track here. Charles V was barely holding his own with his own capital almost falling to Suleiman's army in 1529. And Jerusalem had been in Muslim hands for almost 300 years by then. – Felix Goldberg Oct 25 '20 at 6:56
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    @FelixGoldberg - I have not read Ben-Dov’s book. I’m commenting based merely on my own opinion. Perhaps what Ben-Dov had in mind was the conflict between East vs West (Islam vs Christian) as both HR Emperor Charles V and Sultan Süleyman I were the respective faction leaders. Therefore, it didn’t matter that much what each individual armies strengths were at any one point, but the overall conflict during this time period. – J Asia Oct 25 '20 at 22:14

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