Blog Post 2
Siege towers were first used in the 11th century by Babylonians and Assyrians. They were a very effective way of attacking a castle and forcing a surrender. They were constructed in a special way to make them movable and fire resistant. They could be built to almost any height and were used in a number of known siege attacks in the Middle Ages.
Siege towers were also called breaching towers or belfys in the Middle Ages. (1) It was pretty much exactly what it sounds like; a large tower that was used to get assailants over the outer walls of a castle. These giant structures were usually built on-site because they were too big to move long distances. When an attacking army would besiege a castle they would cut off supplies to the castle and in the following weeks and months could begin to build structures like siege towers to accelerate a surrender. The towers were built on 4 wheels so they could build them in safety away from the castle and roll them up to it when ready to attack. These towers were usually built in levels and built to the same height as the castle wall or sometimes taller so they could have archers on a higher level than the people on the wall. The other modification they made to these towers to make them more effective was that they covered them in fresh animal skins and drenched them in water just before attacking. This made them resistant to fiery arrows shot from the defendants of the castle. At the top of these towers was a gang plank that could be dropped when near the castle walls to allow the safe transfer of men from the tower to the wall. To the right is a basic sketch of what one of these towers would look like.
It took a great amount of skill to construct these towers and the armies usually hired engineers to come construct their towers. The engineers required the help from carpenters to shape timber and bore holes. They hired sailors who were experienced in working with wood and could cut down trees and assemble the timbers quickly. (book 245) It took a lot of time to construct one of these towers correctly.
These siege towers could be very effective weapons if used in the correct situation. These towers were great for providing protection for the troops while approaching the wall. They were a lot better than ladders because the troops could attack the top of the wall in larger groups which prevented casualties. These towers could also be used against some of the tallest walls.
The siege towers weren’t always the best option. For one they took a lot of time and effort to build. They were susceptible to fire. Their large size made them vulnerable to cannons and ballistas which could cause great damage. They were also very slow and hard to move which made them difficult o use on hills or uneven ground. Their last con was that they were only effective on the outer wall. If the castle had more than one defensive walls they were useless.
Siege towers were a an effective weapon when used in the correct situations and were a great asset for many besiegers.
Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1992.
Medieval Warfare. 22 January 2005. 29 November 2016. <http://www.medievalwarfare.info/#equipment>.
Siege Tower. 30 November 2016. 1 December 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_tower>.
Smileyman007. The Pros and Cons of Siege Equipment. 29 September 2006. 26 November 2016. <http://medieval2.heavengames.com/m2tw/strategy/battle/siegeequipment/siegeequipment.shtml>.
Image 1: Viollet-le-Duc – This image comes from Dictionary of French Architecture from 11th to 16th Century (1856) by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879)
Image 2: Francis Grose – Military Antiquities Respecting a History of The English Army from Conquest to the Present Time by Francis Grose, published by I. Stockdale, London