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The Crossbow   >   Chapter 51   >   Introductory Notes   >   Siege Engines   > p.250

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

Ancient Siege Engines

The ballista and the catapult derived their projectile force from the recoil of tightly twisted cordage, while the trebuchet owed its power to the utilisation of the force of gravity of a heavy weight.

Though the construction of these engines was quite distinct, and the one kind projected stones and the other arrows, their respective names have been so carelessly used by many mediaeval as well as later writers, that it is often impossible to tell which class of engine an author alludes to.

Even among the earliest historians, the name ' ballista ' was frequently bestowed on any large siege weapon that discharged missiles - whether the missiles were bolts or stones.1

The following names were commonly, and often indiscriminately applied to the ancient and medieval engines that projected stones and arrows of large size :
 

Balista Engin Martinet Scorpion
Beugle Engin a verge Matafunda Springald
Blida Espringale Matergrifon Tormentum
Bricole Fronda Petrary Trebuchet
Calabra Fundibulum Robinet Tripantum
Catapulta Manganum

Though so many names suggest that there were numerous varieties of siege engines, this was not the case.

All these names refer at most to four distinct weapons, and these I shall presently describe.

Besides the names given above, others were coined for certain well-known machines which from their power or accuracy became popular among the soldiery. For instance we read of the Warwolf , the Wild-cat, the Bull-slinger, the Ill-neighbour, the Queen, the Lady and so forth. Just as in our day an artilleryman will bestow particular care on the appearance of a gun in the performances of which he takes pride, so doubtless the ancients favoured one or other engine which had distinguished itself in action, and called it by some fanciful name to record its success.

Many of the illustrations of balistas and catapults to be found in late

1 The catapult is often described as having been employed for throwing heavy javelins as well as great stones. In my opinion, based on practical experience, the mechanism of a catapult could not possibly have been adapted for projecting a javelin. Its construction shows that this engine was never intended for such a purpose. The name catapult was, however, often applied to the ballista. This confusion was no doubt the cause of mistakes on the part of those compilers who were ignorant of the mechanical details of the two weapons. In the large picture of a Roman catapult painted by Sir E. Poynter, P.R.A., the artist has depicted a weapon that actually combines in its mechanism the parts of a catapult a trebuchet and a spring engine.

The Crossbow   >   Chapter 51   >   Introductory Notes   >   Siege Engines   > p.250


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The trebuchet kit includes fully precut and drilled frame parts, pins and axles, sling cord and sewn pouch, projectiles and fully illustrated assembly and firing instructions. 

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Inspired by the great war machines and siege catapults of Leonardo da Vinci , this all Red Oak hardwood trebuchet features an open counterweight cabinet for range and trajectory adjustment. 

Fire with an empty counterweight for indoor use, or add weight (nuts, bolts, scrap lead, iron or steel, sand, or small rocks not included) for increased range.

Individually crafted from cabinet-grade red oak, the da Vinci Trebuchet stands 14 inches tall in the cocked position, 24 inches tall in the fired position and will hurl a projectile up to 60 feet. Includes six projectiles and fully illustrated instructions.

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