A synonym for fortress is fortification. Fortification (Latin, fortificatio) is the science describing fortified places built as a defence against attacks, as well as the very process of fortifying. The word fortification comes from two Latin words, an adjective, fortis, strong and a verb, facere, to do, to make.
In Serbian lands, as in the most part of Europe, the old castles and courts are lost. There are no old houses, either. The only material traces of the past are the mediaeval monasteries, still inhabited by monks, and some more or less preserved remains of fortifications from various period in history – from the Roman times, the mediaeval period to the Turkish and Austrian invasions.
The structures were usually built of wood and stone. The wooden ones were lost in fires, the stone ones were able to withstand armies and the march of time for a while longer.
For ages a region of warfare, Serbia and the neighbouring lands inhabited by the Serbs are almost covered with fortifications of all sorts. The oldest – the Roman ones – are now covered by earth. And today, they are being excavated by patient archaeologists in Sremska Mitrovica, Viminacium near Kostolac, in Caričin Grad, an archaeological site near Leskovac, Gamzigrad near Zaječar, and the structures in Belgrade.
Seventeen Roman emperors were born in Serbia! Emperor Constantine the Great was born in Niš, and the Byzantine emperor Justinian was born in a place near Leskovac. Never forgetting their homeland, those emperors built fortresses and inside them temples and later on Christian churches.
Serbian mediaeval fortifications – and there used to be hundreds of them – were erected in places that were carefully selected for their strategic defence positions. They could be seen from afar and even today, those remaining ones are easy to spot in the countryside. They were built on hills, at entrances to gorges, at the outskirts of fertile plains or along some important waterways. The stone ramparts protected the town settlements, the houses and palaces of the local lords, the rulers’ castles, great monasteries, important market places and mines.
One of the most beautiful mediaeval fortresses is Golubac at the entrance into the Djerdap Gorge. One of the oldest ones on the Danube is Ram, near Veliko Gradište. As standing witness to the creation of the Serbian mediaeval state are the remains of the Old Town of Ras near Novi Pazar, and Maglič in the Ibar river canyon, on the Kraljevo – Raška road. The great Smederevo Fortress survived when the Turks took it over, but the greatest damage occurred in an ammunition explosion in the Second World War.
When the Turks invaded the regions, they needed a defence system, so they, too, built high walls: the Niš Fortress and Fetislam one near Kladovo are reminders of the times of the rise of the Ottoman Empire. They also left their mark in adding extensions to the Belgrade Fortress, as did the Austrians later on.
The old Petrovaradin Fortress was also renewed by the Turks, but its present look owes to the 18th century Austria.
The Bač Fortress, in the town of Bač, was erected by the Hungarian rulers in the Middle Ages.
In artillery fortresses, a bastion, or a bulwark, is a wedge-like or a polygonal structure projecting outward from the main enclosure, from which the ways towards the ramparts, particularly the gates, are defended by the side fire. There are several types of bastions and the most frequent is a pentagonal one, projecting from the front curtain (face) and two sides (flanks).
A citadel is a small fortification, usually in the centre of a town, built as the last stronghold in a case the town is occupied. It poses a base for undertaking counter attacks against an invader. It is typical for mediaeval fortified towns.
As the last resort within a citadel is a keep, a strong central tower, freestanding by itself and is the best defended area. An earlier word for keep is donjon, a French word and a Byzantine one is pyrg. It is the last defence tower of the citadel inhabitants.