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The Crossbow   >   Chapter 54   >   Distances Ancient Siege Engines Cast Projectiles   > p.276

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

Ancient Siege Engines

Chapter LIV

The Distances to Which Ancient Siege Engines Cast Their Projectiles

The catapults, balistas and trebuchets employed for bombarding the walls, houses and people of a town, were, of course, placed well out of range of the bows and crossbows of its defenders.

If the besiegers located their engines within reach of arrows, the men who worked the engines would be slain by the archers of the opposing side, especially as it was not possible to shelter the larger machines, such as the trebuchets, behind screens of wood or earth on account of their great size and height.

With the advantage of shooting downwards from the commanding elevation of towers and battlements, the archers were certainly able to attain a range of from 270 to 280 yards, and in any case could shoot considerably farther than they were able to do when standing on level ground.

In order merely to ensure their safety from archers, it would, therefore, be necessary to place the engines at about 300 yards from the outer walls of a besieged town.

As catapults were not only required to hurl their missiles against the towers and battlements of a town, but were designed also to shoot clear over the walls upon the houses and soldiers inside the defences, it is evident that whether large or small they must have had a range of from 350 to 400 yards to be effective.1 See extracts from Josephus, p. 268.

Which side could produce the larger and more powerful engines was always an important point among the combatants at a siege, the advantage at first being usually with the besieged, as they could build their engines in time of peace and keep them ready for war. On the other hand, the besiegers had to bring their smaller engines from a distance and, as was usual, construct their larger ones on the spot.

1 400 yards was an immense distance for even a 50 lb. stone to be projected by a weapon that derived its power merely from twisted cordage. 450 yards was probably the extreme range of any of these engines.


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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. 

Unlike the flimsy, snap together plywood trebuchet kits, our all hardwood trebuchet kit does not require additional cutting, trimming or shaping.

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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. 

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