5 Ancient Security Systems Still in Use Today

As long as people have cared about their physical safety, their loved ones, and their hard-earned possessions, they have found ways to keep them safe.

The first residential security system network was created in 1874, but ancient security systems existed long before that.1

Let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at some of the security systems of our ancestors to see how they stack up to modern security methods. Here are five ancient means we still use to keep home and hearth safe from harm.

1. Watchtowers

While we don’t typically see watchtowers looming at the borders of major cities, this security measure is still employed by places that want to keep an eye on who is coming and going, like prisons and top secret government facilities (Area 51, anyone?). Watchtowers are very likely the precursors to our current use of cameras that allow security-minded individuals to keep an eye on any encroachers from a safe, remote location. And you can bet that modern watchtowers take full advantage of remote viewing, cameras and live feeds.

2. Walls

The best example of using a wall to keep nefarious outsiders from invading is the Great Wall of China. But walls were used on smaller scales throughout the ancient world to keep out unwanted visitors, or more likely, folks with pillaging and burning on their minds. We still use the wall concept today, although you’re more likely to call it a fence. And while your vinyl fence likely won’t keep the barbarian hordes at bay, it is another obstacle that must be scaled before the bad guys can get to your home.

3. Gates

Today we might think of gates more as decoration or an ostentatious way to let people know how very important and fancy you are, but gates were originally crucial to protection. With the prevalent use of walls it was necessary to create a means for people to come and go when needed. Gates and walls were often augmented with spikes, pointy branches and other means that would put fear in anyone approaching as well as cause bodily harm if they tried to breach the gate. While your modern gate isn’t likely to leave anyone shaking in their boots unless it’s electrified, gates are still used to help keep undesirables at bay.

4. Moats

Moats were a viciously ingenious security tactic that deterred invaders on multiple levels. First of all, the moat was usually used in combination with a wall. The thinking was that it’s pretty hard to scale a wall if you have to start your climb from a body of water. Add the proverbial crocodiles to the mix and you’ve got a highly effective trespassing deterrent. Today it’s pretty rare to see a home, city or business protected by a trench filled with water and carnivorous beasts; you’re more likely to find someone using man’s best friend to help ward off strangers – and they don’t need a swampy canal to get the job done.

5. Weapons

When it comes to some aspects of personal and home protection, the advances are almost mind-boggling. Being able to check in on your house and kids from your phone while running between meetings at work is something that would have been inconceivable even 50 years ago, let alone in ancient Rome.

However, the use of weapons to knock back attackers is as old as the first time a man balled his hand into a fist and thrust it at his enemy.

Today, fists are augmented by security measures like pepper spray and instead of spears, red-blooded Americans are more likely to consider a gun for home protection, but the use of weapons has and will likely always be a fundamental piece of staying safe and secure.

With all this talk of moats and walls, the time has never been better to evaluate your current state of security. If it’s time for an upgrade, or you need your first system, check out SafeWise's top home security system recommendations to discover which security best fits your needs – or you can always pull out the shovel and start digging.

Related pages


1. ADT, “Our History,” Accessed July 10, 2020.

Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.

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