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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Tue 14 Aug, 2012 10:24 am    Post subject: Artilleries of the Middle Ages Used Defensively         Reply with quote

By artilleries, I am talking about catapults, trebuchets, ballistas, etc.

As you know, the Greeks (and maybe the Romans) of the Ancient Era were quite prolific in putting artilleries on the walls.

One example that springs to my mind is the fortress of Euryalos connected to the New Wall of Syracuse, on the west side of the Epipolai Plateau. The katapeltikon (arrow projector) and lithobolos (stone projector). Later the Romans called them Catapulta and Ballista respectively. The fortress of Euryalos was built solely for the purpose of having stone projectors and arrow projectors on top of. This held the North of Syracuse safe until 212 BCE when Marcellus invaded it.

Other than Euryalos, there's been many more finds in Greek territories of walled artillery positions. Schramm excavated and analyzed the ruins at Ephyra finding the same. Washer-plates from catapults were found, and the walls were of sufficient width and volume that they were not just meant for soldiers.

What is interesting is that, as we move towards the Middle Ages, it becomes harder to find sources that talk about wall-mounted artilleries.

Can you guys help me find those sources? Can you guys name any sieges during the Middle Ages where the defenders mounted catapults/ trebuchets/ etc. on their walls?

Thank you very much


Last edited by Kevin S. on Tue 14 Aug, 2012 8:22 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Aug, 2012 3:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The King's Works http://books.google.co.uk/books/about/The_his...edir_esc=y and the Great Crossbow and Springalds by Jean Liebel http://www.royalarmouriesshop.org/books/sprin...bows.html. There are few works that only focus on this topic that I know of.

My PhD and MA Thesis and Dissertation both include sections on this and an article I have coming out in the Richard III Foundation gazette is on God's House Gate/Tower and is on this topic http://richard111.com/medelai_gazette.htm. I wrote something that was in one of the Volumes of the Journal of Medieval Military HistoryJournal http://www.boydellandbrewer.com/store/viewIte...duct=13706 as well that included some examples but largely you will find information is very isolated.

It was much more common than people think I'd guess and my feeling is by the 13th century most castles and towns had them. Edward II when gathering gear for war literally takes hundreds of Springalds out of castles for use in Gascony. We only have the admin side of this event and the movement of them, there and back but we can assume they were in use there as we have evidence elsewhere for this being common.

Towns are easier to find evidence as they were more detail orientated and every one in the groups was sort of watching each other to make sure everything was running according to plan.

Queensborough Castle built by Edward III was supposed to be a start of the art castle design for a mid-late 14th century development point of view and it was made to house trebuchets, springalds and later firearms. Sadly it was torn down in the modern period by those parliamentary forces..... Some think it was the origin of the later coastal forts built by Henry VIII.

RPM
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 3:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, Mr. Moffett, for your help. I did not realize that artilleries on walls were quite common during the Middle Ages.

Would you mind me if I ask you some more questions?

Is it true that, when a city is besieged, the artilleries of the Attacker usually outranged the artilleries of Defenders?
What would be your counter-arguments to some people who said that Medieval artilleries are more useful for assault than for defense?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 7:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I do not think it is always true an attacker has an advantage but there are limits. If you are a defender and you have siege engines on the wall the size of the wall might be a problem. You have to really build up a section of wall as these are heavy machines. As well you need simple floor space. Yet as an attacker you have less limits in this matter. Build it as larger as you need and it is not an issue of space of weight.

That said things like springalds and ballista I would assume were the same in distance generally on a base level.... but actually the defender has an advantage in this as walls can add to total distance as the point of start is higher.

So for antipersonnel weapons I think both sides used similar weapons of this nature but the towers and walls the defenders had theirs on could likely gain many yards from this (Liebel includes a section on this).

For big wall or siege engine crusher I think they could be similar BUT the defending machines have space limits perhaps while less likely an issue for the attacker, so perhaps it is more likely to be larger. This might not be a simple shoot further relation though as it might be the added strength, weight and size is to launch bigger ammunition.

Not sure any one has ever done a general study on medieval siege engines on this theme. I'd look at Christine de Pisan's work but do not recollect that.

RPM
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 8:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter III of Aragon was a monarch who was very fond of his prowess with mechanical artillery. You should find information on his use of artillery, incluidng fighting enemy artillery of fortifications or from fortifications in most sources on him.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_III_of_Aragon
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 10:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd suspect..with the heavier, siege artillery, that the advantage would lie with the attacker..in that they are generally aiming at a castle. or town /city wall..a relatively large, immobile target . Conversely. the defender's atrillery has a much smaller target to aim at..plus, as other's have pointed out. the size of the artillery is limited by the walls they are mounted on. Yes..this limit doesn't apply if the artillery are mounted on the ground INSIDE the castle/city..but then they are firing blind.
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Kevin S.





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PostPosted: Wed 15 Aug, 2012 10:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thank you, Randall Moffett and Kurtz Scholz, for the helpful answers.

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Yes..this limit doesn't apply if the artillery are mounted on the ground INSIDE the castle/city..but then they are firing blind.

Hmmm, but maybe the person on the wall can direct the artillerymen.
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William P




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 1:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kevin Sanguanlosit wrote:
Thank you, Randall Moffett and Kurtz Scholz, for the helpful answers.

Ralph Grinly wrote:
Yes..this limit doesn't apply if the artillery are mounted on the ground INSIDE the castle/city..but then they are firing blind.

Hmmm, but maybe the person on the wall can direct the artillerymen.


also its not like an attacking trebuchet moves very much , all you need to do with a trebuchet inside a castle yard is just have them point in the direction of the enemy camp and shoot at in the same spot, people on the walls can , as mentioned, check its progress.

also one book showing a 14th century castle in several cross sections, it does mention the presence of a 'seige engine tower' although this was essentially a kids book so i cant say how reliable it is...... the book noted a mangonel was used on top of towers since 'using a trebuchet would shake it to pieces (i dont know if it means shake the trebuchet to pieces, or the tower its positioned on)

also to change continents completely, in sengoku era japan, man power based traction trebuchets were used both for attack and defense with a great deal of frequency. it was noted in one seige that large stones caused a good 1/4 of casualties in one particular engagment, i forget if it was the attackers or defenders who were on the recieving end of this barrage..

i see no reason why castles couldnt have had small traction trebuchets set up hastily as well on a section of wall, more as an ad-hoc way of doing things rather than a permanent fixture, since traction trebuchets were mechanically very simply and also a whole lot smaller. although things like these would in theory be smashed first by the attacking siege engines
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Here comes rate of shot into play. If you are being shot at, you try to shoot back and destroy the enemy artillery. The heavier they get, the rarer they are, because of the significant expenses. For this kind of defensive shoot out, you can install a lot of lighter pieces in the fortification that often have a higher rate of shot while counterweight makes artillery reliably precise in order to march in the shots.
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William P




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 6:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Kurt Scholz wrote:
Here comes rate of shot into play. If you are being shot at, you try to shoot back and destroy the enemy artillery. The heavier they get, the rarer they are, because of the significant expenses. For this kind of defensive shoot out, you can install a lot of lighter pieces in the fortification that often have a higher rate of shot while counterweight makes artillery reliably precise in order to march in the shots.


another point to consider, those traction trebuchets used in japan? there are multiple cased of them being manned by the women of the castle and while not quite as good as the men.. still gave a good account of themselves and helped immensely in terms of helping drive off assaults. but then again, japanese castles do function quite differently in terms of layout, bnote i have no idea how big or small these catapaults were. so they could be tiny, or almost as big as a counterweight trebuchet but im guessing somewhere in between.
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Ralph Grinly





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PostPosted: Thu 16 Aug, 2012 11:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Attack vs Defense is always a very variable topic. Attackers often have advantage as they can choose when/where to attack. Then again, defenders, given time..can often pre-site defences to frustrate the attackers in getting close. From what I recall...where castles/city's were involved..most successful seiges went either one of two main ways. A fairly quick attack, catching defenders by surprise..or a long, protracted seige..which could often be as devestating to both sides in the long run.
If attackers had time to build and employ seige engines..then the attack was likely to be a fairly long and messy affair .
As far as accuracy was involved..I saw a documentary on building a counterweight trebuchet. Once the actaual machine was built..it proved remarkably accurate when the 'tuning' was completed. With care..chosing 'ammunition" of same size/weight/shape. it could consitently hit within a few feet of preceeding shot
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Aug, 2012 6:42 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The defenders, assuming competent siege weapon handlers, would be able to have pre-established sighting and range tables that might need only a few ranging shots to adjust to the precise position of the besiegers siege engines.

Also, knowing the terrain around their fortifications, the design/architecture of their fortification would both limit the ideal places to site the besieging siege engines, so defenders pre-planning firing arcs and doing some periodic practice shooting to acquire and maintain effective counter-siege weapons and well trained crews.

The range advantage for machines of equal capabilities goes to the defenders, but limited by the size of machines practical to mount on the walls. The attackers might have more physical room to build bigger machine throwing heavier projectiles or equivalent projectiles at greater range.

If I was designing a fortification with heavy siege engines in mind only light engines would be mounted on the main walls and mostly for direct aimed fire . The heavy stuff would be on solid shooting platforms slightly lower or the same height than the main walls and behind the main wall for arching indirect fire, mostly heavy trebuchet acting like mortars as far as trajectories are concerned.

Ideally, these shooting platforms would be situated to cover wide arcs of fire and also serve as fallback individually defendable positions should the main walls be breaches or fall to assault. The heavy trebuchet capable of rotating, even if slowly, to aim in the best direction to hit the besiegers engines.

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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Aug, 2012 9:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
From what I recall...where castles/city's were involved..most successful seiges went either one of two main ways. A fairly quick attack, catching defenders by surprise..or a long, protracted seige..which could often be as devestating to both sides in the long run.


Those long sieges often were resolved by which side suffered from disease first. Actually, probably if the attackers suffered from disease before the defenders gave in. The attackers could leave, that was not really a choice for the defenders.
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Aug, 2012 12:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A very large trebuchet should be able to shoot over the wall and might only need a stable earth platform somewhere behind the wall in case it needs elevation. This will be the most difficult to kill artillery.
The problem with these weapons is that they require plenty of wood that you either keep in store and maintained or as an attacker you can transport and work in place while the besieged are naturally more restricted in their access to resources (but might tear down some houses or disassemble ships).
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Graham Shearlaw





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Aug, 2012 7:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The defenders can plan for the likey areas for the attackers siege weapons placements and there likey targets.

on the issue of aiming, the defender's atrillery can just aim at an area and scare away any one,after all haveing a large rock fly past does tend to make you what to get of there for the next one.
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William P




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Aug, 2012 9:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
The defenders, assuming competent siege weapon handlers, would be able to have pre-established sighting and range tables that might need only a few ranging shots to adjust to the precise position of the besiegers siege engines.

Also, knowing the terrain around their fortifications, the design/architecture of their fortification would both limit the ideal places to site the besieging siege engines, so defenders pre-planning firing arcs and doing some periodic practice shooting to acquire and maintain effective counter-siege weapons and well trained crews.

The range advantage for machines of equal capabilities goes to the defenders, but limited by the size of machines practical to mount on the walls. The attackers might have more physical room to build bigger machine throwing heavier projectiles or equivalent projectiles at greater range.

If I was designing a fortification with heavy siege engines in mind only light engines would be mounted on the main walls and mostly for direct aimed fire . The heavy stuff would be on solid shooting platforms slightly lower or the same height than the main walls and behind the main wall for arching indirect fire, mostly heavy trebuchet acting like mortars as far as trajectories are concerned.

Ideally, these shooting platforms would be situated to cover wide arcs of fire and also serve as fallback individually defendable positions should the main walls be breaches or fall to assault. The heavy trebuchet capable of rotating, even if slowly, to aim in the best direction to hit the besiegers engines.


i know the movie is fraught with historical problems but i cannot help but be reminded of kingdom of heaven when you talk about preset ranges and firing arcs... like how in the movie they measured out set distances from the walls to guage the right distance to start counterfiring their trebuchets in rder to attack the enemy seige towers and other such things. how accurae to history that is, is a WHOLE other matter
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Mon 20 Aug, 2012 10:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Military engineering in the Middle Ages could be surprisingly (or, for some, unsurprisingly) sophisticated. An article about trebuchets--not Chevedden's classic, I think, but rather another dealing with Saracen qarabugha engines, though I'm not entirely sure since I can't check it up at the moment--mentions a castle built with a bastion-like projection hollowed in the middle for a defensive trebuchet--basically extending and kinking the wall to extend around a large trebuchet platform. In this way most of the trebuchet would have been hidden behind the wall and only the working arm would project upwards when the engine was in operation. Just about the best situation possible for a defensive trebuchet especially if it could be sited to cover the most likely approach to the castle. The only possible way to improve it would have been to add a turntable underneath, which might not have been beyond medieval engineering capabilities (and which it may have had anyway).

However, I think all this talk about defensive artillery is missing one major aspect of the medieval siege: it wasn't as static as it sounds. The two armies didn't just sit apart from each other waiting for artillery, starvation, disease, or treachery to disable one side more than the other. Instead, the defender (assuming the garrison was large enough) would have sent frequent sallies to probe the besieger's defenses, keep him on edge, and perhaps steal some of his supplies; if the besieger had siege engines, they'd obviously be a primary target for the sallies to wreck or burn. Similarly, it would be odd to see a besieger who did not send patrols to probe the defenses and look for weak points and opportunities. Movies and modern fiction usually don't cover such aspects since they prefer to deal with short, dramatic assaults concluded in a matter of days (or hours) rather than long regular sieges where these factors would naturally come into play.
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Kurt Scholz





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PostPosted: Tue 21 Aug, 2012 3:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote


Something like this?
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