Ancient Siege Engines
engyn in ye castle, the which was not very great but he trymmed it to
a point, and he cast therwith but three tymes. The firste stone fell a
xii 1 fro the engyn without, the second fell on ye engyn, and
the thirde stone hit so true that it brake clene asonder the shaft of the
engyn without ; then the soldyers of Mortagne made a great shout, so that
the Hainaulters could get nothing ther 2 ; then the erle 3
sayd how he wolde withdrawe.'
(From the translation made at the request of Henry VIII. by John Bourchier
second Lord Berners, published 1523-1525.)
These siege engines when only of moderate size were not always successful,
as in some cases the walls of a town were so massively built that the projectiles
of the enemy made little impression upon them. Froissart tells us that
it was then the habit of the defenders of the walls to pull off their caps
or produce cloths, and derisively dust the masonry when it was struck by
With regard to the range of catapults, balistas and trebuchets many
extravagant statements have been made by historians. Francois de Mezeray
even declares that a catapult could shoot to a distance of a thousand yards!4
On this point I have carefully sifted the evidence to be found in ancient
and mediaeval descriptions of sieges and have discarded all statements
that are in the least doubtful.5 The conclusions I have arrived
at will be found in the three following chapters and may, I am confident,
be relied on as accurate.
1 A foot.
2 Could not throw any more stones.
3 Count of Hainault. He was besieging Tournay,
but left that place and went to besiege Mortagne and ordered the people
of Valenciennes to go with him.
4 French historian ; wrote a history of France
in 3 vols., printed 1643-51.
5 I have also had the advantage of possessing
small and large working models from which to work out deductions and comparisons.