The most enduring fortified city of Angkor Thom literally the Great Angkor or Great City, was built by Angkor's greatest king, Jayavarman VII, who came to power following the disastrous sacking of the previous Khmer capital by the Chams. At its height, it may have supported a population of one million people in the surrounding region. At the centre of the city is Jayavarman's state temple, the Bayon, with the other major sites clustered around the Victory Square immediately to the north. It is enclosed by a 8m high and 12km in length square wall (Jayagiri) and encircled by a 100m wide moat (Jayasindhu) which believe to have been inhabited by fierce crocodiles.
This great city has five monumental gates, one each in the northern, western and southern walls and two in the eastern wall. The gates, which are 20m in height, are decorated with stone elephant trunks and crowned by four gargantuan faces of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara facing the cardinal directions. In front of each gate stands giant statues of 54 gods (to the left of the causeway) and 54 demons (to the right of the causeway), a motif taken from the story of the Churning of the Ocean of Milk illustrated in the famous bas-relief at Angkor Wat.
The south gate is most popular with visitors, as it has been fully restored and many of the copied heads remain in place. However, this gate is on the main road into Angkor Thom from Angkor Wat, and it gets very busy from time to time. More peaceful are the east and west gates, found at the end of uneven trails. The causeway at the west gate has completely collapsed, leaving a jumble of ancient stones sticking out of the soil.