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Summary

Philippides26

Blog Post 6

Final Summary

 

There are many other types of siege engines and siege weapons that were used in the Middle Ages.  There were mangonels, catapults, ballistas, ladders, biological warfare, psychological warfare, etc.  They could pollute or cut of the water supply to the castle or cut of the food supply.  Many times they would just cut off all access to outside the castle and wait until they ran out of food or surrendered.

The point is that there were numerous ways to attack a castle and there were numerous ways to defend one.  Each castle was a little different and would have its strengths and weaknesses.  All the castles were built on different types of terrain which would provide its own set of challenges in defending and attacking.  An attacking army would have to take all these things into account and choose the best way to attack the castle or town.

Laying siege to a castle was a game of moves and counter moves where the smarter army would win.  Whoever could out smart the other would survive.

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Siege Mining

Philippides26

Blog Post 5

Siege Mining

 

Siege mining, if used correctly, was one of the most effective and successful ways to attack a castle.  All of the siege weapons that I have talked about so far consisted of destroying castle walls from above.  Mining attempted to destroy castle walls from beneath.  There were a couple different ways to mine an enemy castle.  One was to build a mine that went all the way under the castle wall and surfaced inside the castle.  This provided access to the inside but usually led to a sword battle where the defendants would have the upper hand.  The second way was to dig a tunnel below the walls and then collapse the tunnel which would collapse the walls.  The third way was called sapping, which was digging directly around the walls and collapsing them.

The least popular of the 3 types of mining that I mentioned was the first.  Digging tunnels all the way under the walls and into the castle was probably the least effective way of mining.  This usually didn’t work well because there would be a whole army waiting on the inside that would kill the miners with ease.

Sapping was a viable way to attack a castle.  Sappers would go directly up against the castle wall and begin digging down against the wall until they got before the foundation.  Then the would undermine the foundation and hopefully collapse the wall.  Under certain conditions it could be quite effective.  Sapping was most effective when used to collapse the corners of castles.  The corners were the weakest part of the wall and the easiest to collapse by sapping.  Later on castle began to be built with rounded edges to prevent sapping.  The other disadvantage of sapping was that the sapper would be completely exposed to enemy fire and could be shot before they could collapse the wall.

The most effective type of siege mining was a mixture of the first two.  They would try to collapse the walls like in sapping but would use tunnels like the first.  In this type of mining armies would employ skilled miners to build a tunnel starting at their camp and ending just below the enemy’s castle wall.  Once they would reach the wall they would dig under the foundation and replace foundation supports with wooden beams.  Then when they had replaced enough supports with wooden beams they would set fire to the the beams. They would then leave the tunnel and wait for the fire to burn the wooden beams and collapse the walls.  This was the safest and most effective type of mining because you never come into contact with the enemy until their walls are collapsed and you are ready to fight.

When collapsing the castle’s walls was successful it usually led to the surrender of the castle’s occupants.  They knew they didn’t stand a chance once their walls were taken out.  There were ways to prevent mining though.  The best way to prevent mining was counter mining.  This consisted of digging a tunnel below the other tunnel and collapsing their tunnel before they could collapse the walls.  The other way to defend against mining was in the design of the castle.  Removing sharp corners and replacing them with rounded edges strengthen the walls and made them harder to collapse by mining.  They also would add buttresses that enlarged the footprint of the wall.  This made the walls much harder to collapse as well.

 

Works Cited

Medieval Siege Tactics. 11 March 2005. 2016 5 December. <http://www.timeref.com/castles/castsiege.htm&gt;.

Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1992.

Image: (http://www.midi-france.info/medievalwarfare/121347_mining.htm)

 

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Trebuchets

Philippides26

Blog Post 4

Trebuchets

 

Trebuchets are probably my favorite type of medieval siege weapons.  They are my favorite because I think it is cool that they can throw such large things so far. These siege engines were very impressive to watch and could deal great damage to enemy castles.  The word trebuchet comes from the Old French word ‘Trebucher’, which means ‘Throw over’.  That is exactly what these weapons did.  They threw things over castle walls and into the castle.

The trebuchet is thought to have originated in China over 2000 years ago.  But the medieval trebuchet was introduced in England in the year 1216.  It was used during the Siege of Dover to attack the castle’s walls.

The medieval trebuchet was a very accurate and strong siege weapon, but it did require expert building and design skills.  A trebuchet is a combination of simple machines.  It consists of a long lever arm with a large counterweight.  The lever arm could be up to 60 feet in length.  The counter weight consisted of a large pivoting ballast box that would be filled up with sand or stones.  They put a a throwing sling at the end of the long lever arm where they would load boulders to throw.  When released, the counter weight rotates the lever arm around the axis throwing the boulder hundreds of feet through the air.  These siege engines were capable of throwing 200 pound boulders accurately up to 300 yards!

These impressive machines could launch up to 2,000 stones a day.  Even though trebuchets are generally associated with throwing boulders or stones, they were often used to launch many other things inside the castle walls.  Many times it wasn’t possible to have a supply of boulders large enough to keep the trebuchet running so attacking armies would throw whatever they had around at the time.  They were known to launch things like sharp wooden poles, fire, casks of burning tar, burning sand, dung, dead disease ridden bodies, and dead animals.  All these things were used to cause as much havoc inside the castle as possible.  They would throw dead bodies to spread disease and hopefully cause a surrender that way.

The advantages of these siege weapons usually outweighed the disadvantages.  They were usually safe to operate because they could be placed out side the attack range of enemies.  They were effective in breaking down castles and causing lots of damage.  They were very accurate.  The disadvantages of these weapons were that they required expert builders and a lot of material to build.  Once they were built they could not be moved either.  They stayed in that one place.

 

Works Cited

History of Trebuchets from The Middle Ages On. 25 January 2004. 2 December 2016. <http://www.medieval-castle-siege-weapons.com/history-of-trebuchets.html&gt;.

Kaufmann, J. E., H. W. Kaufman and Robert M. Jurga. The Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts and walled Cities of the Middle Ages. Cambridge: Combined Publishing, 2001.

Trebuchet. 1 September 2009. 30 November 2016. <http://www.medieval-life-and-times.info/medieval-weapons/trebuchet.htm&gt;.

Image: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2189990/posts?page=42

 

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Battering Rams

Philippides26

Blog Post 3

Battering Rams

 

Battering rams were a very common and simple way of breaching a castle wall.  These weapons came in a variety of different forms and sizes.  They could be something as simple as a fallen tree that people carried and smashed against a wall or door.  It could also be much more elaborate and have a wheeled base with a roof over head.  They were one of the most famous siege weapons used in the Middle Ages.

Battering rams had been around for centuries but were very prolific during the Middle Ages.  They were so common because they were so easy to make and use but could still effective.  Battering Rams were made out of large tree trunks.  They could simply be carried by a group of men or they could build a more complicated version with wheels and a suspended log.

The most basic form of a battering ram is one where an attacking army simply cut a large tree down and use it do knock down an enemies wall.  They don’t do anything to the log to make it easier to slam the wall or gate with but just simply carry it as is.  These types of battering rams could be useful but only if the other army didn’t have any defenses or were completely unaware of what was going on.

To make these weapons more effective and useable.  Attacking armies would build something much more elaborate like the one illustrated above. These were stronger, more effective, and provided protection from enemy defenses such as arrows.  These kind of battering rams were built on a car type of structure.  They would put them on wheels so that they could be pushed up to the wall.  They had a roof to protect them from enemy arrows and other flying or falling objects.  The fallen log would be suspended from the roof so that the men didn’t have to carry the weight of the log.  This also made them more accurate in their ramming abilities as well because they could hit the exact same part of the wall every time.  They would add a metal cap on the end of the log that was pointed so that they could do more damage to the wall. They would usually cover the structure in wet animal hides too so that it would be a little more fire resistant.

These battering rams did have their weaknesses however.  For one, they were not very effective against reinforced stone walls.  They were mainly used on wooden walls or gates which we much weaker.  They were also susceptible to fires even with animal hides.  They also required a lot of time to be spent at the wall where it was most dangerous.  It would take many repeated attempts to break down a wall or gate which meant that the men would be they ramming the wall for a long time.  So they defendants had a long time to try and find a way to stop them like by dropping a large boulder on them or something.

 

 

Works Cited

Battering Ram. 17 July 2012. 29 November 2016. <http://www.ancientfortresses.org/battering-ram.htm&gt;.

Battering Rams. 19 March 2009. 22 November 2016. <http://medieval.stormthecastle.com/armorypages/battering_rams.htm&gt;.

Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1992.

 

Image:  (http://www.mortalonline.com/forums/threads/its-time-to-reign-in-these-stupid-art-decisions.104733/)

 

 

 

 

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Siege Towers

phillipides26

Blog Post 2

Siege Towers

 

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.

 

Works Cited

Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1992.

Medieval Warfare. 22 January 2005. 29 November 2016. <http://www.medievalwarfare.info/#equipment&gt;.

Siege Tower. 30 November 2016. 1 December 2016. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_tower&gt;.

Smileyman007. The Pros and Cons of Siege Equipment. 29 September 2006. 26 November 2016. <http://medieval2.heavengames.com/m2tw/strategy/battle/siegeequipment/siegeequipment.shtml&gt;.

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

 

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Introduction

phillipides26
Blog Post 1
Introduction

Medieval Siege Warfare

Siege warfare was an important part of the Middle Ages. During this time in history there were many advancements in weapon technologies. Which in turn spurred new defensive technologies to come about. Siege warfare in the Middle Ages made a huge mark on history.
Siege warfare consists of surrounding and blockading a town, castle, or fortress in an attempt to capture it. The word siege comes from the Middle English word ‘sege’ meaning seat or blockade. Siege warfare wasn’t invented in the Middle ages but it was popularized during this time period and the Middle Ages were known for that type of warfare. For my final project I will be doing a series of blog posts about different types of siege equipment used during the Middle Ages.
During this time there were siege towers, battering rams, cats and weasels, mining, catapults, trebuchets, and many other types of weapons used to take over castles or force them to surrender. Each weapon had its own strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the type of terrain surrounding the town or castle, a variety of different siege weapons were used to attack enemy fortresses. The types of defenses that the castle had also played an important role into determining the right kind of siege weapon to use. In my blogs I will include when each weapon was most effective and the what types of defenses were effective in stopping it. The 4 main types of siege weapons that I want to focus on in my blog posts are the siege tower, battering ram, trebuchet, and mining.

Works Cited
Medieval Warfare. 30 January 2004. 12 November 2016. <http://www.medievalwarfare.info/#equipment&gt;.
Siege Warfare. 5 November 2010. 15 November 2016. <http://www.lordsandladies.org/siege-warfare.htm&gt;.
Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 1992.

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Alexander the Great Blog

Philippides26

 

Alexander the Great’s Journey East

picture1(Walbank)

  1. c. 334 BCE

 

  1. Only two years after inheriting the throne Alexander the Great decided to leave Macedonia and go and conquer the Persians. Alexander left with somewhere between 48,000 and 90,000 soldiers to begin his conquest (Engels).  Depending on where he was and at what point he was in his journey he had more or less troops on hand.  As he went on conquering cities and nations he gathered more troops from those cities.  He would also receive more troops from time to time from his home nation of Macedonia.  At the same time, however, he was losing troops to battle and by letting veterans retire and go home.  Alexander being the great leader that he was, understood what his troops wanted and how to keep there moral up and keep them happy.  This is why he allowed the older more seasoned soldiers to retire and either live out the rest of their days in whatever part of the world they were in at that moment or allow them to return home to their families.

 

  1. An army of this size needed a huge amount of supplies. These supplies would have a great range of variety to them as well.  There were the basics that the soldiers would need to survive such as food and water.  There were also many other things that soldiers would need such as clothing, shelter, a place to bath, wood for fire, etc.  Alexander the Great used very practical ways to appease these needs.  For things such as food and water Alexander simply choose his route carefully.  He followed water ways such as rivers so that he had constant access to water.  For food he formed a supply chain from the cities and towns he had previously conquered.  He would collect a portion of the food from all the towns and use that to feed his army.  He also chose a route that was fertile and had wood to have fires and build temporary shelters.   All the other supplies that his army needed were supplies through a large baggage train that followed the army everywhere.

 

Works Cited

Lendering, Joana. Livius. 30 July 2016. 4 October 2016. <http://www.livius.org/articles/person/alexander-the-great/&gt;.

Walbank, Frank W. Alexander the Great. 7 4 2015. 5 10 2016. <https://www.britannica.com/biography/Alexander-the-Great&gt;.

Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978. Print.   

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