In Late Antiquity, cities and other important settlements in the Eastern Mediterranean almost completely disappeared from view behind massive fortifications. The walled areas could then only be entered through a small lnumber of highly visible gates. This article investigates the physical appearance of these gates. It presents an overview of their basic requirements and their additional architectural and figurative decoration. It then attempts to explain why these features were used and how this relates to the nature of the settlement - imperial capital,‘normal’ city, border town or Christian sanctuary - to which they belonged.