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Medieval Siege Weapons

From the 5th century to the 15th century, the European Medieval Era was the age to represent political, social, and military power. With the construction of more castles and wars to show strength, capturing castles and conquering regions became very common among kings and powerful personalities. And here, Medieval siege weapons played a major role in advancing the army system and defeating the enemies.

In the Middle age, we saw the creation of some of the most deadly weapons, which were essential to survive. For example, Medieval Siege weapons were used to defeat the enemies, destroy their castles, and break their defending systems. They were of different types, varying in technologies and materials.

This article will allow you to majorly explore terrifying Medieval siege weapons and how they strengthened the Medieval armies.

History of Medieval Siege Weapons

The Medieval era or Middle age in Europe is more than 1000 years old and is divided into three smaller periods: Early Middle Age, High Middle Age, and Late Middle Age. During these ages, we have seen a lot of political, social, and military-related changes in Europe. Many castles were constructed as well as a symbol of power. So although castles existed for centuries, the Medieval castles were different and were designed while keeping military requirements and protection against attacks in mind. And that’s where the development of Medieval Siege Weapons experienced a boom.

Siege Weapons in middle age were designed to survive the battles and destroy enemy castles. All weapons had their different features and contributed uniquely in showing the power. The castles and kings with the most weapons were considered more powerful. The major weapons seen in that era were Ballista, Battering Ram, Catapult, Siege Tower, and Trebuchet. Most Medieval siege weapons were even taken from China, Egypt, and other countries. 

The distinctive contribution of the siege weapons was to set fire, throw arrows and stones towards enemies, and block the food and war supply of the enemies. After the 15th century, other advanced military weapons like gunpowder, firearms, and more were developed. And these weapons were upgraded depending on their needs. Even new siege artillery was developed during World War I and II. It was important to upgrade with time to survive the attacks from modern siege guns. 

With time, the usage of old Medieval Siege weapons decreased, and modern weapons took their place. However, the modern weapons were just the upgraded versions of the weapons used in the Middle age, so they never lost their charm completely.

Types of Medieval Siege Weapons

Here is a list of the most deadly medieval siege weapons:

1. The Hand Cannon

Hand Cannon, Medieval Siege Weapons
Hand Cannon”, by Cleveland Museum of Art, is licensed under CC0 1.0

Hand Cannon, also known as ‘Gonne’, was the first firearm weapon used during middle age. It was a simple metal barrel firearm that was manually ignited. Additionally, it came with a touch hole that the defenders used to attack their enemies. 

This weapon was first used in China, and in the 14th century, it became popular in Europe. It could be easily held in two hands, and another person could put the ignition using hot iron or matches. Usually, it was used to fire rocks, pebbles, and arrows.

2. The Trebuchet

The Trebuchet, Medieval Siege Weapons
The Trebuchet“, by Colin Howley, is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The Trebuchet was the simplest but most effective Medieval siege weapon. It was designed to replace the catapult so that it could handle the launching of heavyweight objects and throw them to a greater distance. 

There were two types of Trebuchet, Mangonel and Counterweight systems. The Mangonel required manpower to pull ropes to swing the arm, while the Counterweight system followed a more gravitational and updated arm swinging system. The only difference was the force used to launch the objects.

3. The Battering Ram

The battering ram, Medieval Siege Weapons
The Battering Ram“, by BabelStone is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

The Battering Ram was used to smash the castle’s structure and other enemy grounds.  It was a large wooden log carried by many men to swing it at the enemy’s army. It was very effective for demolishing walls and gates, but the carriers were left vulnerable due to its heavyweight. Also, the defenders who used to carry this Medieval siege weapon were left with no energy to fight against enemies.

4. The Ribauldequin

The Ribauldequin, Medieval Siege Weapons
The Ribauldequin” by Sémhur licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Ribauldequin, also known as the Organ Gun, was a Medieval weapon that moved on wheels. It used to contain small-calibre iron barrels set on its platform. It used to fire the missiles in a volley at a very high speed, showering iron bolts towards the enemies. 

5. The Byzantine Flame Thrower

The Byzantine flamethrower, Medieval Siege Weapons
The Byzantine Flamethrower” by Gts-tg licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

The Byzantine Flamethrower was introduced in the 1200s during the Byzantine Empire. During the 20th century, a look-a-like weapon, a flame thrower, was introduced, leading to many conflicts related to its existence. However, some Medieval images prove the existence of this weapon at that time.

This Medieval siege weapon was used to suck the air from its existing valve near the handle, mixing it with existing Naptha or quicklime, and blowing it out on enemies. It also laid waste on enemy boats.

6. Ballista

Ballista, Medieval Siege Weapons
Ballista” by Ronald Preuß licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Ballista, also known as Bolt Thrower, was a Medieval siege weapon that was used to fire large objects at the target from great distances. It was much similar to a crossbow as it required the tension of springs to fire bolts. This weapon was designed by Ancient Greeks and then adapted by Romans.

7. The Staff Sling

The Staff sling, Medieval Siege Weapons
The Staff Sling” by RonToms licensed under CC BY 3.0

The Staff Sling, also known as Siege Engine, was the simplest Medieval weapon that was used to contain the large wood with a short sling at its end. These two were common weapons to attack in Italy during the Medieval period. The formation of this weapon had two cords and a pound, where one cord was attached permanently, and the second one could slip off. When the second was released, it threw the object out from the pouch. It worked like a fishing rod because it involved gripping and throwing. Size of pouches used to vary depending on the object being thrown through it.

8. Siege Tower

Siege Tower, Medieval Siege Weapons
Siege Tower” by Gts-tg licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Siege Tower was more like a tall wooden tower fixed on a frame that could be operated on wheels. It used to push up against the castle’s structure so that attackers could climb the walls and reach inside the tower. Also, its robust structure offered protection from enemy attacks. 

Attackers used to build this wooden weapon on the battle’s location to save time. Earlier, this was used by ancient Romans, Babylonians, and Assyrians and was then introduced in Europe in the Medieval age. Also, it used to offer mobilisation to about 200 soldiers and worked as transport.

9. Bombards

Bombards, Medieval Siege Weapons
Bombard” by Lee Sie licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Bombards, famously known as Connor or Mortar, existed in the 12th century. It was first used in China and then introduced in England in the early 14th century. It was the ideal siege weapon as it was designed to shoot large objects at the enemies. These used to have the potential even to break the walls. The objects thrown using this weapon were Granite balls and large stones.

Summary

Medieval Siege weapons played an important role in wars and contributed majorly in conquering castles. These allowed both attackers and defenders to fight with their full strength. There has been quite an upgrade in the siege weapons depending on the requirements and castle structures. All the weapons worked differently and showed different unique strategies warriors followed during the Middle age.

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