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Battering Rams

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Battering Rams: They were large mechanical objects, often on wheels that were used to ram the walls and doors of a castle in an attempt to break them down. Often times battering rams were part of a siege tower. The image at left shows early roman era battering rams. They have wooden structures around them to protect the operators of the ram.

One of the weaknesses of the battering ram was the fact that it had to be brought right up to the castle door or wall which made the attackers vulnerable. This was alleviated at first by siege towers which were heavily armored. In later years the battering ram was largely replaced by the weapons that could hurl objects at the castle. These were weapons like the catapult and the trebuchet.

Over the centuries many different techniques were employed to siege castles. Here were some of the simpler (less technological) ways that castles were sieged. These techniques were used more often in the early centuries of castles. As technology improved and siege engines were developed the engines were more often used because they were quicker to bring about the fall of the castle.

  1. Deception: Spies were used to infiltrate the castle. They could, at night, open the castle gates or wreak havoc on the interior defenses of the castle. The most famous case of this tactic is the Trojan Horse.
  2. Treachery: Someone trusted within the power structure of the castle could give misleading information that would bring down the castle. He could for example report that there were many more troops sieging the castle than there actually were. This would induce the castle residents to either revolt or surrender out of fear.
  3. Starvation: This was a method used but it often meant many months, sometimes even a year or more. The sieging army would station itself around the castle and not allow any form of commerce. Eventually the inhabitants would surrender due to imminent starvation.
  4. Biological warfare: Yep that's right. A sieging force could launch the remains of rotting corpses into the castle causing outbreaks of life-threatening illness.
  5. Simple storm: The sieging force could carry on an all out attack at various points of the castle. This overwhelming would hopefully break through in some places causing a collapse in defenses.
  6. Mining: The sieging army would actually dig tunnels under the castle. The hope was not so much for an entry into the castle but for a way to collapse the castle defenses.

Medieval Siege : A nova SpecialThe Siege Arms Race - Castles, and how they were sieged developed over the centuries in a medieval style arms race. All of the siege tactics shown above were replaced by large medieval weapons. These weapons could bring down the fortress walls quickly and efficiently. But castles too adapted by building stronger, taller, and thicker walls. They even used concentric walls with walls inside walls. Once the art of explosives developed reasonably well and artillery became accurate and reliable castles fell out of favor in that they could not provide adequate defense. The castles then became more of a fortified place for royalty to live. NOVA: Medieval Siege

Make a Mangonel How to Make a Torsion powered catapult called a Mangonel:
This type of catapult uses twisted string or rope as a source of power and it is more accurate to the real catapults of Medieval times. Its an easy project and this little Mangonel reallly fires! How to make a Mangonel

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