The Land Gate is one of the two original entries to the walled city of Famagusta, the other one being the Sea Gate, and is the most spectacular. It is the second oldest part of the walls, after the Othello's Tower. It is also the most interesting part to those interested in military fortifications. Over the centuries it has been called the Ravelin, the Rivettina Bastion and the Akkule, depending on who ruled Famagusta at the time.
The original Ravelin was built by the French Lusignans as a tower that stood outside Famagusta's walls. Its function was to guard the main entry to the city which was nearby. It's name is from a corruption of the old French, reflecting its half moon shape.
When the Venetians took over Famagusta in 1489 they decided to strengthen Famagusta's defences in anticipation of a threat from the Ottomans. They built a new set of walls, and incorporated the Ravelin into the new city walls. Renamed the Rivettina Bastion, it became a huge defensive structure, bristling with cannon emplacements, all connected by a series of passages and chambers. Part of the secret of Rivettina Bastion's strength was that the Venetians cleverly built the new walls, where possible, on existing rocky outcrops, making them very difficult to undermine.
The threat from the Ottomans proved not to be an idle one, and in 1570, the Venetians in Famagusta found themselves under siege. Although the walls were never breached, after ten months the Venetians were forced to surrender, and the Ottomans took possession of Famagusta and the Rivettina Bastion, which was renamed the Akkule, or White Tower, supposedly from the colour of the flag the Venetians hoisted when they surrendered.
When the Ottomans arrived on the scene, the entrance to the city was still through the Akkule, over a drawbridge protected by a portcullis, evidence of which still remains. The entrance used today was built at this time, along with the bridge over the moat.
A visitor to the Akkule today, can still wander through the maze of passages, and contemplate what it must have been like to be here 450 years ago in the middle of a medieval siege.
On the city side of the gate, in the passage leading from the Akkule, you can still see frescoes and coats of arms dating back to the Venetians, while to one side the Ottomans built a small mosque in 1619 for the use of the city guards.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.