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The need for security and protection is as old as the first human settlements, which needed to be protected from wild animals and human enemies. The origins of medieval castles can be found in the Roman outposts and villages built during Rome’s expansion to defend the domains conquered and to limit the attacks at the outer edges of the Empire. This entry reviews the origins, functions, and architectural design of medieval castles, with an emphasis on the security that they afforded the citizens.

Origins

The origin of the word castle comes from the Latin word castrum (meaning “fortification”), which also defines the Roman settlement, an orthogonal village enclosed by a moat and a wall with towers to defend Roman legions against the hostile inhabitants of the land ...

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