Weapons of the Crusades

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  • Topic: Ballista, Crossbow, Bow
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  • Published : May 8, 2013
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The Weapons of the Crusades
Guy Steuart
4/20/13
War in Society
Dr. Jobin

The Crusades were extremely violent times. With constant pressure to take back the holy city, armies were constantly fighting and killing. They were also always trying to find better and more efficient ways to fight and kill. Old weapons were engineered to be more destructive, new weapons were invented to destroy the ever-advancing technology in fortification. The three main categories of weaponry that were most important to the crusades were foot soldiers, knights, and siege weapons. One of the many siege weapons used during the crusades was the Trebuchet. It was extremely important to sieges and resembles the catapult, however the trebuchet was more complicated, intercut and damaging than its close relative. The trebuchet used a sling attached on one end to a wooden beam with a heavy weight at the other end of the beam. The beam was fixed at the top of two vertical supported arms to balance the horizontal, elevated beam. The trebuchet was loaded using a crank and pulley system to lower the sling side of the beam and raise the heavy weight side. Then the rope holding down the sling side was loosed which, in turn, would drop the weight causing the sling attached to the arm to quickly raise up releasing the projectile. The trebuchet had a very versatile arsenal, it was capable of firing boulders, sharp wooden poles and darts, fire, burning tar, burning sand, dung, dead and sometimes mutilated bodies or even disease ridden bodies, body parts, and dead animals, all of which caused utter chaos inside the castle walls. The force of the Trebuchet was capable of reducing castles, fortresses and cities to rubble with its immense firing power and its ability to launch up to 2000 missiles a day. The trebuchet was an extremely important and vital piece of any siege, capable of destroying even the most fortified cities, however its one downfall was its immobility. Trebuchets were built on-site by engineers who were on the field of battle directing soldiers on how to construct it. This was a slight problem because time was always of the essence in battle and in construction of the weapon. The time it took to build the trebuchet might have made the difference in winning or loosing a battle. Enemies could also disrupt or halt the construction of a trebuchet if they got too close. Another of the siege weapons used during the Crusading times was the Ballista. The Ballista was an extremely important siege weapon during the crusades as well. It was built similarly to a giant crossbow and was loaded and fired similarly. The biggest difference, however, was its size. The Ballista was designed to essentially be a medieval missile launcher powered by two short bow arms. It was capable of firing huge wooden or ironclad darts or arrows. The projectiles were powered by twisted skeins of rope, hair, or sinew that were cranked back and attached to a firing mechanism at the opposite end of rope. Then, the projectile could be loaded and fired; the ballista design was based on a huge dart-throwing machine. The balista was capable of firing its projectiles at a flat trajectory or into the air. The projectiles from the balista were designed to be capable of penetrating through multiple enemy lines. This siege weapon was extremely important for the front lines of an attack. It was light, highly mobile, accurate and fast. The gunmen were capable of firing 1000 rounds in one day making it an extremely dangerous and terrifying weapon. Its only downfall was the weight of the rounds it could fire. It could never have the pure destruction power of the trebuchet, which was built to launch huge boulders. Its lightweight rounds slightly hindered its ability as a siege weapon, however its ability to mow down the enemy makes up for its lack of size. Of these two siege weapons, the Balista come across as the more dangerous. The trebuchet, although extremely powerful and capable of...
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