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Sunday, June 13, 2021

10 Medieval Siege Weapons

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1) Ballista:

The ballista was made in antiquity appearing in historic Greek as well as Judean sources, but it rose in popularity as it became the preferred siege weapon of the Roman Empire. Resembling a large and a heavy transportable crossbow and operated with a mechanism that allowed the reloading of ammunition, the ballistae bolts were made of a thick lacquered wooden shaft with the head being a large metal spear or iron head. Not only it was used in both offense and defense with great efficiency, but it was alsoused as a way of breaking infantry ranks as well as stopping cavalry charges, and with mixing of alchemical concoctions, the bolt was set on fire providing the siege engine a way of besieging fortifications.

2) Catapult:

Mangonel or onagers is what we think of when the word catapult is used in a sentence. Made in ancient Greek city states, this siege weapon used rocks or timber for its projectiles that were either thrown or set on fire to cause further injuries and destruction. The catapult uses a mechanism that allows launching of its projectiles via ballistics. The catapult was used either both for offense and defense against armies, or in sieges as it was the most effective way of breaking down walls.

3) Battering ram:

Resembling large moving tortoises or houses, the battering ram was a siege engine that was used to break walls and gates pane. Made out of wood and layered with shields on each side and on top of the engine, the battering ram would be moved by people that were inside the weapon itself. The thing that allowed for the opening of gates or the breaking down of walls was the enormous timber riveted inside the engine held on the ceiling inside, and with an iron head resembling a ram protruding on the outside, it swung in a pendulum motion as it tore down any city fortifications.

4) Trebuchet:

Very similar, albeit larger and allowing for heavier projectiles to be thrown further in ballistic fashion as the catapult, the trebuchet was made in ancient China and found its way to Europe via the trade route known as the Silk Road. Towering on the battlefield, made out of wood and reinforced with metal, the siege engine was at first assembled on the spot as the siege or defense had begun, later transported via the pulling of bulls or oxen. It caused such devastations that people started using it as the main weapon in lifting a siege or resolving a battle.

5) Sabuca:

Made in the ancient city states of Greece and later adopted by every civilization in naval battles and sieges. The Sabuca resembled a wooden see saw with heavy ladders inside that allowed marines to be safe from the opposing ships or to scale walls with ease.

6) Ladders:

Most common in use and often given doubt, the simple wooden ladders allowed the besiegers to scale the walls and fight a city’s defenders in close quarter combat. How effective they were is up to debate. The ladders were either easily disposed of by the defenders or used against the assailants by having them tarred, boiled, set ablaze, pelted by arrows, bolts and rocks. Also, the ladders permitted the defenders’ entry, striking anyone within their weapons reach. With the body leading the charge atop, the ladder could fail everyone else behind by toppling them.

7) Corpses:

The dead, the infected carcasses of people and animals alike were used as a siege weapon that allowed for biological warfare. Thrown over the walls to land behind and to strike the populace inside with various diseases, the horror to see your dead army and citizens landing before you and signaling your demise must have truly been a mixture of repulsion, remorse, depression and what not else.

8) Siege tower:

Replacing the simple ladders was the usage of the siege tower, a towering (pun intended) transportable structure housing enemy troops eager to assail the walls of the besieged city via windows, sometimes protruding ladders out of them. Made entirely out of lacquered wood, they were reinforced with metal to keep the gargantuan-weapon stable. With that, they could also offer defense against being set ablaze alongside the countless shields riveted on the outside.

9) Petards:

With the introduction of gunpowder and bringing a new era of warfare in Europe, petards were small siege weapons resembling a large petard used specifically for breaching doors, windows or walls. Easily transported by hand, it allowed for a safe way for the besiegers to breach and open any structure with no consequence.

10) Cannons:

Signaling the end of an age as well as kingdoms and empires, the cannon brought destruction upon the battlefields never before seen in history. Sitting upon wooden wheels that were strengthened with iron riveted on its outside in circular fashion, was the large metal tube filled with cannon balls that tore open or crushed beneath anything that stood in opposition.

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