Tower of Flies

Acre, Israel

The Tower of Flies was a formidable guard tower/fort at the medieval city-port of Acre, which overlooked the harbour from a small island and protected the city’s rich maritime trade. It also served as a lighthouse.

Its precise origins are unknown, but it is an ancient structure, most likely built in Phoenician times. It was the Crusaders of Europe that redeveloped the tower to the height of its prowess during a re-fortification of the ancient port after the city’s capture in the First Crusade. The tower was also attached to a giant harbour chain that was strung across the harbour to prevent the entry of ships. The ruins of the tower are still visible today.

The tower gets its peculiar name from the Crusaders who first arrived at Acre; believing that they had arrived at the ancient Bible city of Ekron where one of the major deities was Ba'al-zebub, literally meaning the Lord of the Flies. Since the tower already existed and apparently garbage was frequently left at the site, it was named the Tower of Flies.


The ancient watchtower has been a key feature in the city’s armour against foreign attacks, particularly at sea. Conrad of Montferrat tried to take the city of Acre during the Third Crusade by attacking the Tower of Flies but adverse winds and rocks below the surface prevented his ship getting close enough.

The tower was also a key piece in the War of St. Sabas, with the warring maritime Genoese and Venetian factions fighting for its control and by extension, control of the harbour. In 1267, Genoa managed to capture the tower and blockade the harbour for twelve days before the Venetians evicted them. The war was settled three years later.

During the times of Jezzar Pesha, the Ottoman ruler of Acre in the late 18th century, a huge chain was used to secure entrance in and out of the harbour. During this era, the tower also had a sinister reputation as a dungeon.



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Acre, Israel
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Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Israel

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Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

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Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.