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Reconstructed West Slavic fortified settlement (gord) in Groß Raden, Germany

Section of reconstructed fortifications at Birów near Ogrodzieniec, Poland

Part of reconstructed fortifications at Birów

Grodzisko in Stara Rawa, Poland

File:Gorod PL.PNG

Towns and villages in Poland with names derived from gród (pink circles)

Model of Bródno gord in National Museum of Archaeology in Warsaw

A gord is a medieval Slavonic fortified settlement, also occasionally known as a burgwall or Slavic burgwall after the German term for such sites. The ancient peoples were known for building wooden fortified settlements. The reconstructed Centum-satem isogloss word for such a settlement is g'herdh, gordъ, related to the Germanic *gard and *gart (as in Stuttgart etc.). This Proto-Slavic word (*gordъ) for town or city, later differentiated into grad (Cyrillic: град), gard,[1][2] gorod (Cyrillic: город), etc.[3][4][5]

Similar strongholds were built during the late Bronze and early Iron Ages by the Lusatian culture (ca. 1300 BC – 500 BC), and later in the 7th - 8th centuries BC in modern-day Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic and eastern Germany. These settlements were usually founded on strategic sites such as hills, riverbanks, lake islands or peninsulas.

A typical gord was a group of wooden houses, built either in rows or in circles, surrounded by one or more rings of walls made of earth and wood, a palisade and/or moats. Some gords were ring-shaped, with a round, oval or occasionally polygonal fence or wall surrounding a hollow. Others, built on a natural hill or a man-made mound, were cone-shaped. Those with a natural defense on one side, such as a river or lake, were usually horseshoe-shaped.

Most gords were built in densely populated areas, and situated in places which presented particular natural advantages. However, as Slavic tribes combined to form states, gords were also built for defense purposes in less populated border areas.

Those gords that served as a rulers' residences or which lay on trade routes quickly expanded. A suburbium (Polish language: podgrodzie ) formed near or below the gord; its population serviced the residents of the gord and could shelter within the gord's walls in the event of danger. Eventually the suburbium would have its own fence or wall. In the High Middle Ages, the gord normally evolved into a castle or citadel (kremlin), and the suburbium into a town.

Some other gords did not stand the test of time and were abandoned or destroyed, gradually turning into more or less discernible mounds or rings of earth (known in Russian as gorodische, in Polish as grodzisko, in Ukrainian as horodyshche, in Slovak as hradisko and in Czech as hradiště). Notable archeological sites include Biskupin, Poland and Bilsk, Ukraine (see Gelonus).

Evolution of the word

The Proto-Slavic word *gordъ means a "fenced area", compare to Ukrainian horodyty, Czech ohradit, Russian ogradit, Croatian/Serbian ograditi and Polish ogradzać meaning "fence off". The word ultimately finds its root in the Proto-Indo-European language; cognates are many English words related to enclosure: "yard", "girdle," and "court." In some modern Slavic languages, *gordъ has evolved into words for a "garden" (likewise a fenced area, from which Latin hortus, and English horticulture and orchard): the Ukrainian ґород (gorod) and город (horod), the Serbian, Bulgarian, and Macedonian градина (gradina), the Polish ogród, the Slovak záhrada, the Czech zahrada, the Russian огород (ogorod). In some Slavic languages, *gord has evolved into a word for "town" or "city": the Russian gorod, the ancient Pomeranian and modern Kaszubian gard, the Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian and Serbian град / grad. The Slovak and Czech hrad and Slovene grad have evolved to mean "fortified castle."

Polish word podgrodzie meant settlement near a town (Slavic prefix pod- means "under" or "below", equivalent of Latin sub-) because in fact gród was built at hill's top frequently. It survived to these days in names of several villages (i.e. Podgrodzie, Subcarpathian Voivodeship) and town's districts (i.e. district of Olsztyn). Cf also Puttgarden in Wagria and Putgarten on Rügen in Germany.

The names of many Central and Eastern European cities hark back to their past as gords. Some of them are in countries which used to be, but no longer are, inhabited mostly by Slavic-speaking peoples. Examples include:

  • Horodok
  • Gorod (toponymy)
  • Hrod (toponymy)
  • Harad (toponymy)
  • Hrud (toponymy)
  • Horod (toponymy)
  • Hrad (toponymy)
  • Gard (toponymy)
  • Grod (toponymy)
  • Grad (toponymy)

In addition, there are Graz in Austria and Gartz, Stuttgart in Germany.

In Ancient Iran, Gerd had the same meaning. This word changed to Jerd after the Arab invasion. Burugerd or Borujerd is a city in the West of Iran.

Important gords in Europe


On Rügen

  • the fort at Cape Arkona - the Jaromarsburg
  • Garz Castle
  • the fort of Charenza near Venz in the municipality of Trent
  • the Herthaburg near the Stubbenkammer in the Jasmund National Park

Rest of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

  • Mecklenburg Castle in the village of Dorf Mecklenburg near Wismar (origin of the state name)
  • the fort of Groß Raden near Sternberg
  • the fort of Behren-Lübchin, partly reconstructed in the Groß Raden Archaeological Open Air Museum
  • Gädebehn Castle (Gemeinde Knorrendorf) in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • Ganschendorf Castle (Gemeinde Sarow) in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • the fort of Grapenwerder (Gemeinde Penzlin) in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • Quadenschönfeld Castle in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • Neu Nieköhr Castle (Gemeinde Behren-Lübchin) in the county of Rostock
  • the fort of Neu-Kentzlin (Gemeinde Kentzlin) between Demmin und Stavenhagen
  • Mölln Castle (Gemeinde Mölln (Mecklenburg)) in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • Möllenhagen Castle (Gemeinde Möllenhagen) in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • the Ravensburg (Neubrandenburg)
  • the forts at Kastorfer See near Neubrandenburg
  • the island fort in the Teterower See
  • the Schlossberg near Feldberg
  • the Slavic fort near Menkendorf, a village in the parish of Grebs-Niendorf
  • Wittenborn Castle ( municipality of Galenbeck) in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • Kieve Castle in the county of Mecklenburgische Seenplatte
  • Wulfsahl Castle in the county of Ludwigslust-Parchim

in Berlin-Brandenburg

  • Brandenburg Castle
  • Spandau Castle (Berlin)
  • the Römerschanze near Potsdam
  • the Reitweiner Wallberge, fortanlage near Reitwein in the Landkreis Märkisch-Oderland
  • the Slavic fort of Lübben
  • the Slavic fort of Raddusch near Vetschau/Spreewald
  • the Slavic fort of Tornow
  • Lossow Castle, Frankfurt (Oder)
  • the fort near Kliestow

in Saxony-Anhalt

  • the fort of Altes Dorf in the Magdeburg subdistrict of Pechau
  • Wust Castle

in Schleswig-Holstein

  • List of Early Middle Ages castles in Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein including:
  • the fort of the Slavic settlement of Starigard in present-day Oldenburg – the Oldenburger Wall


  • Rauher Kulm


  • Rubín


  • Chrobry fortified village in Szprotawa

See also

  • Gordoservon in Asia Minor, 680 AD
  • Garðaríki - Varangian name for Kievan Rus, interpreted as "cities"
  • Biskupin, a life-size reconstruction of a gord-like Lusatian settlement in Poland.
  • Fortified settlements in other cultures:
    • Kraal (South Africa);
    • Motte-and-bailey (western Europe).
    • Burgh, Borough, Burg or bjerg (Scotland, England, Germany, Denmark)


  1. ON. garðr; goth. gards; den. -gaard; island. -gard; cimb. -garthur; aleman. -gardo; welsh. -gardd; holln. -gaerde; span. -gardin; pomern. -gard; slav. -grod, -hrad
  2. A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language. Oxford. 1911; Jane Chance. Tolkien and the invention of myth. . 70
  3. Taylor, Isaac (1898). Names and Their Histories: A Handbook of Historical Geography and Topographical Nomenclature. Original from the University of Michigan: Rivingtons. p. 331. 
  4. Taylor, Isaac (1864). Words and Places, Or, Etymological Illustrations of History, Ethnology, and Geography. Original from Oxford University: Macmillan. p. 128. 
  5. Anthropologische Gesellschaft in Wien (1880). Mittheilungen der anthropologischen Gesellschaft in Wien. Original from the University of Michigan: F. Berger & Söhne. p. 40. 

External links

This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from [[Wikipedia:Gord (archaeology) Wikipedia]] (view authors).