- A rampart or other
- 1761: and in a word, would intrench and fortify them round with as many circumvallations and breast-works, as my uncle Toby would a citadel. — Laurence Sterne, The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, vol. 3 (Penguin 2003, p. 201)
- 1819: The Saxon architect had exhausted his art in rendering the main keep defensible, and there was no other circumvallation than a rude barrier of palisades. — Walter Scott, Ivanhoe
Investment is the military tactic of surrounding an enemy fort (or town) with armed forces to prevent entry or escape.
A circumvallation is a line of fortifications, built by the attackers around the besieged fortification facing towards the enemy fort (to protect itself from sorties by its defenders and to enhance the blockade). The resulting fortifications are known as 'lines of circumvallation'. Lines of circumvallation generally consist of earthen ramparts and entrenchments that encircle the besieged city. The line of circumvallation can be used as a base for launching assaults against the besieged city or for constructing further earthworks nearer the city.
In cases where the besieging army is threatened by a field army allied to the enemy fort, the besieging army may construct a contravallation, a second line of fortifications behind the circumvallation facing away from the enemy fort. The contravallation protectes the besigers from attacks by allies of the city's defenders and enhances the blockade of the enemy fort by making it more difficult to smuggle in supplies.
The Siege of Alesia which took place in September 52 BC is one of the most famous investments in history. Julius Caesar in his Commentaries on the Gallic War describes his text book use of the circumvallation and contravallation to defeat the Gauls under their chieftain Vercingetorix.
The basic objectives and tactics of a military investment have remained the same down to today. During the Second World War there were many sieges and many investments. One of the most famous sieges of the Second World War which demonstrated the tactical use of investment was the siege of Stalingrad. During the first half of the siege the Germans were unable to fully invest the city so the Soviets were able to get men and supplies into the city across the Volga River. In the second half of the battle, the complete investment of Stalingrad by the Soviets, (including air space which prevented the construction by the Germans of an adequately large airbridge), eventually forced the starving Germans inside the city to surrender.
circumvallation in German: Circumvallation
circumvallation in Dutch: Circumvallatielinie
circumvallation in Portuguese: Circunvalação