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Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Description of Catapults
The siege weapons used during the Middle Ages included different types of Catapults. These massive Catapults were an invaluable Medieval siege attack weapons. Any machine that hurls an object can be considered a catapult, but the term is generally understood to mean the medieval weapon. The designs of many Catapults worked by a central lever mounted in counterpoise, similar to a see-saw movement.

Types ofCatapults
The different types of Catapults used in the Middle Ages included:

  • The Ballista - The Ballista was similar to a Giant Crossbow and worked by using tension
  • The Trebuchet - The massive Trebuchet consisted of a lever and a sling and was capable of hurling stones weighing 200 pounds with a range of up to about 300 yards
  • The Mangonel - Missiles were launched from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of the one giant arm of the Mangonel
  • The Springald - A type of Ballista
  • The Onager - A type of Mangonel

King Edward I ordered his chief engineer, Master James of St. George, to begin work on a new, more massive engine called Warwolf, a version of the trebuchet. The Warwolf is generally thought of as the most powerful and most famous of the trebuchets in history.

Definition and Origin of the Catapults
The word 'Catapult' comes from the two Greek words "kata" and "pultos". "Kata" means downward and "pultos" refers to a small circular shield which was carried in battle. Katapultos was then taken to mean "shield piercer".

Catapults History
The Catapults history dates back to antiquity. Various types of catapults were used by the Chinese, Greeks and Romans. The Catapults reached Europe during the Medieval era and were used extensively by the French. Catapults history notes that the weapons were introduced to England in 1216 during the Siege of Dover - as were many other types of siege weapons. Louis the Dauphin of France crossed the Channel with a large force and laid siege to Dover Castle making a violent and incessant attack on the castle walls. He used the Catapults against the walls and men of Dover Castle. The constable of Dover castle was Hugh de Burgh - he refused to surrender. The Medieval Catapults used during the Middle Ages were the Mangonel, the ballista and the mighty trebuchet. The Mangonel complimented the other available siege weapons. The Mangonel was not as accurate as the Ballista but it was able to throw missiles further than a Trebuchet. Missiles were thrown in an overhead arc as opposed to the straight trajectory of the dart throwing Ballista.

Medieval Catapults - The Ballistas
The Ballista design was similar to a giant crossbow and worked by using tension. The Ballistas were designed to aim huge wooden, iron clad, darts or arrows which were powered by twisted skeins of rope, hair, or sinew - the ballista design was based on a huge dart-throwing machine. The Ballistas loosed heavy bolts, darts and spears along a flat trajectory. The word 'Ballista' is derived from the Greek word 'Ballistes' meaning to throw. The ballista - one type of the Medieval catapults of the Middle Ages. For detailed information and facts about the Ballista type of Medieval catapult please click the following link:


Medieval Ballista Catapults - the Springald
The ballista was designed as a giant catapult. One type of ballista was a tension-driven device called a springald. The springald closely resembled a crossbow in function with a vertical springboard fixed at its lower end to a timber frame. The springboard moved like a lever.

Medieval Catapults - The Mangonels
Mangonels fired heavy projectiles from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of its arm. The Mangonel was used for aiming various missiles at castles, fortresses and cities. This type of catapult was easy to construct and wheels were added to the design to ensure manoeuvrability. The Mangonels were capable of firing projectiles up to 1,300 feet. For detailed information and facts about the Mangonel type of Medieval catapult please click the following link:


Medieval Catapults - The Onager
The Mangonel is also referred to as the Onager. Missiles from the Onager catapults were originally thrown from a sling - the sling was later changed for a bowl-shaped bucket. The word Onager refers to a type of donkey, whose kicking motion and force were paralleled in the Mangonel and derives from the Greek word 'onagros' which means a wild ass.

Medieval Catapults - The Trebuchets
The Medieval Catapults used during the Middle Ages were the Mangonel, the ballista and the mighty trebuchet. Missiles thrown from the Trebuchet catapults were deadly. The Trebuchet is generally associated with throwing stones. A Trebuchet could release up to 2000 stones in one day! Should the supply diminish sharp wooden poles and darts would be used. Fire caused havoc in a besieged castle or city and a variety of fire missiles, including firebrands and deadly Greek Fire were thrown. The Traction Trebuchet catapults used people as a power source. The Counterpoise Trebuchet catapults replaced the people power with a weight on the short end. For detailed information and facts about the Trebuchet type of Medieval catapult please click the following link:


Building Catapults
Building a  Catapults required considerable design and building skills. Siege weapons, such as the Catapults, were made to order! They were far too cumbersome to move from one place to another. In a siege situation the commander would assess the situation and the siege weapons design requirements to break a siege. Engineers would instruct soldiers as to the construction and building of siege weapons such as the Catapults.

Siege Weapons
Middle Ages Index

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