Citadel City

Frequently in fiction, your typical city tends to take the view that when it comes to defense, Crazy-Prepared is good. Very good.

In fantasy or medieval settings, such a city will always have high and thick walls, which usually (and impractically) enclose the entire city. The walls will constantly be patrolled by a sizable force of guards, who are very well armed, armored, and trained. These guards will also frequently have ready access to heavy artillery for defensive use, including catapults, ballistae, and/or even (if the setting allows it) cannons.

More modern settings will feature naturally updated defenses, from electric fences to bomb shelters. Futuristic settings will have Force Fields, automated turrets, and even more strange and novel mechanisms. One which protects large areas of land around the city may surround them with The Great Wall.

Of course, the practicality and costs of creating and maintaining these defenses will never be brought up, as well as the original reasons for creating said defenses. This usually means that these defenses vaguely imply a Crapsack World; after all, there would have to be some justification for those preparations in the first place, even if it's never explicitly stated.

If these defenses are put to the test (and they usually will be), the results will vary, depending on the work. These can range from the city being destroyed to showcase how prepared/numerous/tough the armies of the villain(s) are, to pretty much holding up to whatever gets thrown at them with little effort.

This is a subtrope of Crazy-Prepared. See also The Siege. If the defenses fall, the after effects may include Watching Troy Burn.

Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Tokyo-3 of Neon Genesis Evangelion, which has a number of defensive systems surrounding the city (namely missile systems), the Evangelions, structures that hold EVA-scale weapons and buildings that can retract underground for safety. Beneath the ground are multiple layers of armored plating and bunkers for citizens to hide in. In fact, the city was built to fend off the coming Angels.
  • SDF-1 Macross in Super Dimension Fortress Macross houses a city within itself, after accidentally taking it with them during a space fold.
    • By extension, the SDF-1 in Robotech as well.
    • The New Macross Class colonisation ships is later series fit to a degree as well. Equipped with massive, armoured domes that can be closed to protect against external threats (either hostile forces or natural threats like space debris) and with a detachable battleship section that is usually the most powerful vessel in the fleet's military escorts courtesy of a Macross cannon
  • On top of the walls surrounding the entire civilized world of Attack on Titan, there are more straightforward examples in the form of cities like Zhiganshina and Trost, placed just outside of the main structure of the walls with outcroppings surrounding them. The heavy guard and gun presence on the walls of those cities is actually a cost saving measure for the rest of the wall; manning the entire wall would spread defenses impractically thin, so the cities are set out as bait to draw the Titans to specific points where defensive elements can be concentrated.
  • Gunka No Blazer: The inner section of Baselland's capital city is arranged like a star fort.

    Comic Books 
  • The Megacities of Judge Dredd have massive defenses against infiltration from the Cursed Earth, strategic and tactical air defense, and armed forces ranging from the Judges themselves to emergency Bloc militias. And entire megacities still get wiped out.

    Fan Works 
  • Fall Of Liberty: Algonquin quickly becomes this as the plague spreads, with twenty meter high concrete walls being erected on the bridges and around the edges of the island, whilst LCPD and NOOSE units protect all of the bridges and the city interior from undead attack. It doesn't work.
  • Shingeki No Lesbian Horses: Twieren and her fellow ponies (and Spiarmin) live in this after Twieren raises Wall Sina, though the city is a smaller part of it. The interior of Wall Sina is mostly composed of rural areas.

    Literature 
  • Minas Tirith from The Lord of the Rings is one of the key codifying examples: seven concentric tiers carved into a mountain, each with its own wall and gate. Unlike some, there's a clear justification for it; Sauron's forces are out there and the place was originally built as a military fortress, only becoming the capital city much later (after Osgiliath and Minas Ithil—now Minas Morgul—were overrun). Its current  name means "The Watchtower"
    • The Silmarillion has Gondolin, which as well as being a Hidden Elf Village is practically a Citadel Country. It's surrounded by impassable mountains with the only way through being a hidden ravine and tunnel, barred by seven gatesnote  each with its own company of full-time guards. Passing those gets you into the valley; the city itself sits on a hill in the middle of that and has walls and defences of its own.
  • The Dragonlance novels enjoy deconstructing this trope. After all, defenses such as stone walls are little good against attacks from the air, like those of dragons and flying citadels...
  • The Forgotten Realms setting has most of the cities set up like this. Phlan is the most prominent example in the novels, falling under attack several times, but holding them off each time.
  • On Gor, most city-states are built like this, with walls to keep out outsiders and gates to let people in.
  • The CoDominium novels offer a couple of science fiction examples:
    • In Falkenberg's Legions, the capital city of Harmony-Garrison. Originally settled by Christian farmers, the planet Arrarat was supposed to be a peaceful venture, so the city was not walled in. Then the Bureau of Corrections got involved, and began dumping convicts on the planet. To protect its interests, the CoDominium sent a Marines who fortified the city of Harmony, and made a fortress of Garrison attached to it.
    • In King David's Spaceship, the city of Batav is a typical example of this, due to being on a low tech world. This is not without reason; due to local climate changes, barbarians migrated and besieged the city.
  • In the Legacy of the Aldenata, major U.S. cities located in territory that was deemed indefensible against the Posleen invasion were turned into fortresses that would be able to hold out on their own while surrounded by Posleen armies. New York City was one example.
  • The Wheel of Time has Tar Valon, which is doubly well defended due to both being surrounded by walls and being situated on an island in the middle of a river. The presence of the wall is justified in-universe due to multiple attempts to capture the city and it was built by magic. Several other cities have complete outer walls and the fact that there's population living outside the walls that has to be brought inside during sieges becomes a plot point a couple of times.
  • David Eddings' Belgariad, being set in a classic 'High Fantasy' world, has no shortage of equally-classic Castle Towns. Several of them, however, goes above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to being stupidly defensive:
    • The Citadel of the Algars is the only permanent structure in the Algarian grasslands - the Algars are otherwise nomadic. It's practically a man-made mountain which the Algars have been constructing nonstop for centuries - they have annual drag-boulders-to-the-Citadel competitions. Its sole purpose is to be a huge target for any invading army - there's basically nothing inside except for a huge labyrinth that anyone breaching the gate can get lost in while Algarian bowmen take potshots at them from atop the walls.
    • The City of Riva is located on a desolate, rocky island in the middle of the western sea. It covers the ONLY sizable cove where an army could land, with a huge wall. Inside, the city is build in tiers, and every house is part of he fortification - all the walls that are turned 'outwards' are built extra-sturdy and windowless, so in case of a wall-breach, every tier can become a new wall as the defenders gradually fall back to the Rivan Castle itself - which, of course, has some pretty imposing walls and defenses. The entire reason the city was built, on a previously-uninhabited island, was to protect the the Orb of Aldur. No army has ever so much as breached the outer walls... but the defenses have, on many occasions, proved less than formidable against trickery and infiltration.
  • Armengar from the first Riftwar Saga, which is a highly fortified city occupied by human settlers north of The Kingdom, frequently attacked by goblins and moredhel (dark elves).
  • The X-Wing Series establishes that Coruscant, the galaxy's capital in Star Wars, is quite thoroughly defended, with a powerful defense fleet and a double-layered planetary deflector shield grid. A major part of Wedge's Gamble is the Rogues' effort to disable the shields long enough for the New Republic to invade.
  • The Sword of Shannara had Tyrsis, the capital of Callahorn. The city had a heavy wall and thick gate plus was built into a mountain. On top of that you had the Border Legion of Callahorn guarding the city. Ultimately, the defenses are not breached through strength but by treachery. Spies within Tyrsis jam the locking mechanism to the city gates, allowing easy breaching by the vast army of the Warlock Lord. Only Shea destroying the Warlock Lord stopped the obliteration of the Border Legion and the conquest of Tyrsis.
  • E. R. Eddison's classic The Worm Ouroboros has Carce, the heavily fortified capital of Witchland, wich is described both as a citadel and a city.
  • The Last Redoubt in The Night Land and Awake In The Night Land, which is a massive pyramid protecting humanity from unspeakable horrors that roam the darkened Earth. To ensure their safety, an electric circle that creates an invisible barrier prohibiting any monsters from entering the Redoubt.
  • Ankh-Morpork of the Discworld was once a walled city, but much like such cities in real life it eventually overran its borders, and the walls were picked apart over the years by citizens in need of building materials.
  • Doctrine of Labyrinths: Damaging Mélusine's massive, 700-year-old walls qualifies as treason, which is odd, since they don't seem to serve much purpose beyond looking cool. Assaults are much likelier to come through magic than a physical invasion.
  • Xenos: any city to some extent, depending on the paranoia level of the rulers.
    • Belgor, founded to house the Hunters and stand against the Blight.
    • The harbor of Baros, justified as the single available landing point on the entire island. The island itself is described as a natural fortress, and the Properly Paranoid ruler Kriy has done everything to fortify that single weak point.
  • The city of Vervunhive in Necropolis is a formidable example. The "curtain wall" surrounding it is nearly a hundred meters tall and boasts colossal siege cannon as well as anti-air missiles, gun emplacements, and large garrisons. There are only a handful of gated entry points, each with its own highly reinforced guard houses. Topping it all off (literally) is a huge shield generator that can protect the entire interior space from artillery fire virtually indefinitely. Unfortunately, the city's substantial suburbs (as much as half of its population either lives or works outside the walls) are not protected at all aside from a handful of bunkers, its design serves to prevent the defenders from launching counter-attacks with any real effectiveness, and cooping a few tens of millions of humans up together leads to panic and near rioting. In the end, the final Chaos assault destroys almost all of the fortifications before being repelled by, ironically, a counter-attack that the defenders never would have countenanced were their walls still standing.
    • Their rival, Ferrozoica Hive, is implied to be equally impressively defended (both sets of defensive works date to a "Trade War" the two hives fought around a century before) — which is why, when they arrive, the Imperial fleet just lances it from orbit.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Magic: The Gathering, specifically the Shadowmoor block, the insanely paranoid Kithkin build all of their settlements this way.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has several Citadel Planets ("Fortress Worlds"): One of them is Cadia, which is located near the only stable passage to the Eye of Terror from which the Legions of Hell regularly emerge. Nearly three quarters of the population serve in the military, Child Soldiers are taught to use a gun before they learn to read, and is protected by its own fleet of spaceships. This being 40K, it still wasn't enough to prevent the invading forces of Chaos from currently having a stranglehold on it.
    • Each Space Marine chapter has a "fortress monastery" as its HQ. Each is basically a self-sufficient city complete with living quarters, workshops, temples, spaceport etc.
  • Cthulhu Tech: Most major cities have been converted into hardened, self-contained Mega City structures, and living outside one is a very bad idea.

    Toys 
  • Ta-Koro fromBIONICLE is basically a walled city inside a volcano with a sea of lava protecting it.

    Video Games 
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has plenty of walled cities but the Imperial City has the strongest defences, being the capital city.
    • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim also has plenty of walled cities. This is partly because of a shift in world design Bethesda implemented in Oblivion for memory-related issues carried over to Skyrim — major cities are in their own small world-spaces, separate from the larger game-world, which means entering those cities have to be done via a door. This obviously means that the game-designers have to design those cities so that you can only enter and leave them via the door(s), which is most easily done via this trope.
    • Most cities in the Exile series had a similar design for similar reasons (though there were plenty of exceptions). In later Video Game/Avernum games, when engine changes meant there was no longer an overworld/city map divide, this was restricted to only cities of military importance.
  • In Age of Empires II, the AI will eventually attempt to set something like this up in longer games. However, Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors means there are a number of tricks to break through. (Assuming the AI doesn't make a mistake while building the walls.)
  • World of Warcraft has both Stormwind and Orgrimmar, both of which are walled up and heavily fortified. (Not that it did much good for either one when it came to stopping Deathwing...)
    • Not to mention Thunder Bluff (built on top of a collection of mesas), Undercity (which looks very strange for a city, but quite natural for an underground fortress), Darnasus (built inside a hollow tree stump larger than most mountains), and The Exodar (a crashed and largely buried spaceship).
    • The climactic raid of Mists of Pandaria was the Siege of Orgrimmar, which was Exactly What It Says on the Tin. In the end, a small strike team (to whit, the players) is put together to systematically weaken the defenses, because otherwise, the attackers have no real chance of success, only a bloody stalemate.
  • The Stronghold series of games easily lets you build a somewhat realistic version of this. The AI is not so good at doing the same, unless it's the Wolf.
  • In Star Wars: The Old Republic, Kaas City on Dromund Kaas. The houses the Sith Citadel, is surrounded by numerous fortified walls of its own, and has a highly militaristic "peacekeeping" force on the inside.
  • Savannah Citadel in Sonic Unleashed. There is a huge, thick wall around the place, but the doors in are usually open as the inhabitants are peaceful and friendly to Sonic. Just not Dr. Eggman.
  • The Citadel in Mass Effect is an ancient space station that serves as the galaxy's capital. In addition to an ever-present defense fleet it can close its arms when attacked and render itself inaccessible. And now the subversion: because it's so defensible, the Citadel makes perfect bait for advanced civilizations and allows the Reapers to decapitate the galaxy's leadership in one fell swoop during their 50,000 year harvesting cycle.
  • Haven City in the Jak and Daxter series, the last known human holdout on the entire planet during Jak II: Renegade. It's a essentially a self-sufficient fortress, surrounded by thick walls and an eco-powered energy shield that protects the city from the Metal Heads, in addition to constant patrols by the city's defense force, the Krimzon Guard. It's essentially impenetrable, and because crops and livestock are produced inside the walls, it can withstand a siege of any duration (and has, in fact, done so for centuries now). The only weak point is the fact that the city, and by extension the shield wall, is powered by eco, which is obtained from mines outside the city that the Metal Heads actually can attack. A looming eco shortage is a frequent concern raised during the game, as without the shield wall the city stands no chance against the Metal Heads.
  • Midgard in Tales of Phantasia is an entirely walled city where not only soldiers patrol the walls on the lookout of Dhaos' demon army, there's a fortress with a mana cannon in case of aerial forces.
  • Destiny: The city underneath the Traveler, which has walls and plenty of defenses against encroaching invaders who seek to break in.
  • Halo: Reach: Reach itself, being the main military stronghold of the UNSC. It's heavily guarded by a fleet of 100-150 warships at any given time, twenty orbital defense platforms (each capable of destroying a Covenant ship with one shot), a nuclear minefield, and enormous quantities of soldiers. Then the Covenant show up with an even larger invasion force.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick has Azure City, heavily fortified by an order of paladins and an army of guards. Despite the aid of the Order, the city falls to Xykon and Redcloak's hobgoblin armies.
  • Mechanicsburg in Girl Genius has made repelling invasions into the town sport.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamers Alliance, several cities are well-fortified to withstand assaults. The most notable ones are Vanna, Maar Sul City and Myridia.
  • In The Solstice War, the eponymous city of Solstice, capital of Ayvarta. It has fifty meter high walls surrounding it on all sides, lies in the middle of a desert, straddling a river. In addition to standard military units, the city has three gigantic cannons known as Prajnas that can level whole streets.
  • World Of Omni: Talmain has high, solid stone walls and only one entrance. There's even two higher tiers (with the imperial palace at the top) with equally sheer sides - and again, only one way to get up each level. The impracticality of this layout, given the considerable jogging distance between each tier threshold, is only acknowledged in passing.

    Western Animation 
  • Ba Sing Se from Avatar: The Last Airbender: it actually has two walls, an outer wall to protect the farmland, and an inner wall to protect the city itself.
  • In Bravestarr, Fort Kerium can convert into "fortress mode" when necessary.

    Real Life 
  • Most medieval and ancient cities actually did have walls with a limited number of gates, and strict rules against building outside the walls. This served an economic interest: tolls on goods brought into or out of the city was a major revenue stream in medieval times. However, the city guards were more likely to be few in number and often part-timers. And siege preparation in supplies was probably only done when necessary. Most of these cities no longer have such fortifications; although some still do.
  • With the advent of improved gunpowder, new star fort fortifications, designed to limit the power of cannons and the effect of sappers replaced the old style of walled fortification for many cities. Palmanova, a town in Italy, is regarded as one of the first examples of star fort walls being used, and the fortifications still exist there today.
    • Less to limit the power of cannons as to exploit them for defensive purposes, although in a sense it comes to the same thing. The basic idea is to extend structures from the wall that can give each other covering fire and fire upon any advance toward the curtain wall in a diagonal crossfire on the corners of the advancing force(thus confusing the enemy as to where the shot is coming from as well as scoring more One Hit Polykills if the attackers are arrayed in line. And of course simply to get more places to stuff with cannon.
  • Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. It boasted a triple wall as well as a chain boom that protected its harbor. Many tried and failed to capture the city, even Attila the Hun.note  Yet, Sultan Mehmet II succeeded with a different approach in 1453... with a powerful cannon designed to destroy said walls in addition to people in the inside who opened a side gate for him.
  • Cities deep inside the Roman and Chinese empires were often unfortified during the height of their power, it being assumed that The Empire was protecting them so well that the only reason to fortify would be as part of a plan for rebellion.
    • Ancient Sparta was another notable aversion. Sparta had no walls — because any invader had to pass through Spartans first.
    • Japan was another aversion, since foreign invasions were all but unknown. The first Japanese cities, Nara and Kyoto, were modeled on China's walled capital city Chang'an, but their planned outer walls were never built.
  • Cities along the Low Countries tended to be some of the most fortified in history as that was one of the nastiest battlegrounds in Europe. Sometimes rather than a city fortifying itself, a city grew up around a fortification that was already there.
  • Soviet and modern era Moscow. It's currently the only city in the world with ground-based anti-missile defence emplacements. note  The Moscow Metro is also deep underground enough to provide shelter from a nuke for the citizens, and has a number of government bunkers and installations even deeper underground.
  • Quebec City and Louisburg are two found in North America.
  • Typical European examples of this are often a mixture of styles from several ages. Strategy changes less than tactics (Caesar, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Guderian had to think about the same rivers and mountains) so fortifications will be in the same place because of the same considerations. For instance many European cities are a jumble of Medieval style (high stone walls) and eighteenth century (lower and thicker with bastions sticking out to hold gun emplacements where they can catch assault troops from the flank making the famous "star" shape). American coastal forts including Fort McHenry of national anthem fame, are "pure" star forts because they were built from scratch rather than being built in the place of a castle or fortified city whose budget did not include tearing down the old walls before replacing them. Because of that American coastal forts are prized by military archeologists.
  • Many cities in England are descended from fortifications made to defend against Vikings. A clue is the name "burg" in a city as "burg" is "Castle" in Anglo-Saxon and several other germanic languages.
  • Carlisle on the Anglo-Scottish border. Yes, it got an awful lot of work.
  • Modern military bases are often cities unto themselves, complete with shopping malls, gas stations, schools, apartment buildings and houses, etc., and miles of fences and walls and barbed wire with armed guards patrolling and controlling access. Due to the highly mobile nature of modern warfare, they rarely resemble the walled fortresses of old, however.
    • This applies primarily to permanent bases, located on a nation's own soil or its allies'. On the offensive, units establish "Forward Operating Bases" which are considerable more spartan. (And much more defensible — the average military base is more concerned with infiltration in peacetime than assault.)
  • Fortress design used to be considered at the top of intellectual discipline. Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were famous in their time for their fortresses, and latter play-fortification was a common hobby of the rich. In Italy and elsewhere there were entire dynasties of fortress designers.