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Final Project: Counter Weight Trebuchet


For my final project I decided that I wanted to build a trebuchet because when I originally took this course that was the sort of thing that I thought we were going to talk about. The trebuchet can be traced as far back as 300 B.C in Ancient China (Tarver 130). This form of trebuchet was what is known today as a traction trebuchet.

The traction trebuchet was similar to the more traditional counter weight trebuchet that most people think of but with the major difference being the method of swinging the arm. The traction trebuchet was typically consisted of a off set arm on an axel. The long end of the arm would have a sling that could hold the projectile to be thrown, with a large number of ropes tied to the other end. These ropes would be grabbed by the team of men once the siege engine had been aimed at its target. The men would then jump up, and pull the ropes down all at once, swinging the arm upwards and launching the payload towards the target. This would be the only version of the catapult to exist into 500 AD when the French would adopt it in large numbers (Traver 152). This trebuchet would continue to be used until 1216 during the Siege of Dover where the counter weight trebuchet was introduced to Europe.


A model of a Traction Trebuchet (Todd)

The counter weight trebuchet is the trebuchet most commonly thought of, depicted, and well known trebuchet. It’s construction was very similar to that of the counter weight trebuchet in terms of how the arm, payload, and method of propulsion were set up with the main difference being the mechanism to swing the arm. Where the traction trebuchet used ropes and a team of men to pull the weight down, the counter weight trebuchet simply had a large weight instead. The weight would constantly be on the ground unlike the traction trebuchet who had the ropes constantly on the raised side of the arm. The arm would then be lowered down using a system of pulleys to load the payload and prepare for firing. Upon pulling a levear the arm would swing and the payload would fire. The pulley system was based upon the trebuchet size with smaller ones using a hand crank while larger ones would require what was essentially a human sized hamster wheel. The counter weight trebuchet would generally replace the traction trebuchet until the popularization of the cannon and gunpowder which would be used to replace it.


A Model of a Counter Weight Trebuchet ( Akinom)

I decided to make my trebuchet using some methods that could have been used back in the day. Instead of building my trebuchet using nails, improved geometry, and today’s architecture tools to build it I decided to build one using woodworking techniques and to make it look similar to how they would have back in the day. I decided to use wooden dowels instead of nails by drilling holes into the wood and pushing wooden dowels through the holes too small for the dowels and cutting the dowels to size by hand after. The other method that I used was a woodworking technique called a rabbet join where you cut the wood to half length and stack them on top of one another before pinning them together.  Below are my pictures of in progress and some pictures that I made of the wood working techniques I used.



Alchin, Linda. “Trebuchet.” Life in the Middle Ages, 2017,

Chevedden, Paul E., et al. “The Trebuchet.” Scientific American, vol. 273, no. 1, 1995, pp. 66–71. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Tarver, W. T. S. “The Traction Trebuchet: A Reconstruction of an Early Medieval Siege Engine.” Technology and Culture, vol. 36, no. 1, 1995, pp. 136–167. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Chevedden, Paul E. “The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, vol. 54, 2000, pp. 71–116. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Todd, Gary Lee “Military Museum: Ancient Weapons.” Wikimedia Commons, September 30, 2008

Akinom, “Trebuchet at Caerlaverock Castle.” Wikimedia Commons, August 2007

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Final update – Bayeux Tapestry

Here is the final product! Thanks for a great semester everyone! (I am much better at hand sewing than machine sewing, so don’t judge my hem work.) My full blog post has already been posted.


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The Trebuchet in Medieval Warfare

by caltrop101

The Trebuchet: A General Idea

The concept of the trebuchet is a simple one, almost entirely based on simple machines. A sling is attached to one end of a lever, with force applied to the other end and a pivot in the middle. A lever allows forces to be multiplied by altering the distance that force is applied through, so a small force applied over a large distance can replace a large force. Alternatively, a large force applied through a small distance can be converted into a small force applied over a large distance. It is this latter case that a trebuchet makes use of, using a large force to move a small object through a large distance (and at high velocity).

Over Time

This general concept was consistent throughout the trebuchet’s history. The main point of development was the process by which the large force was applied to one end of the lever to produce the rapid motion of the other end. The most powerful version of this is the counterweight trebuchet, where potential energy is stored in a large mass, raised off the ground. When this mass is allowed to swing, its potential energy is transferred to the projectile as kinetic energy.

The original trebuchet was what is now known as the “traction trebuchet.” This trebuchet used people hanging from ropes as a counterweight. However, as there are only so many people you can fit under a trebuchet, this setup had natural limitations in the size and speed at which it could launch a projectile. By introducing a self-contained counterweight, significantly more force could be applied to the lever, at the sacrifice of some firing speed (it takes longer to reload a counterweight trebuchet than it does for a large group of people to stand up). This allowed for a more efficient system in several other ways, most notably positioning the projectile in the sling closer to the pivot for a more efficient motion, as well as other innovations such as the swinging counterweight.


A Byzantine Traction Trebuchet


A Mongol Counterweight Trebuchet. Note the hinged counterweight for greater efficiency.

Comparison: Catapults

In trying to understand the value of the trebuchet, it is helpful to compare it with another well-known siege weapon: the catapult. The primary goal of both is the same: to launch heavy and deadly projectiles at structures/troops or over fortifications. However, the similarities basically end there. While the trebuchet stores the projectile’s energy by means of raising a large mass, a catapult is powered by torsion—energy stored by the deforming of rigid objects. This is usually done in the form of bending wood, twisting ropes or sinews, or both.

There are some natural advantages to the trebuchet. It is much simpler, mechanically, making it far easier to build, and its motion puts much less strain on the pieces of the engine, allowing for larger amounts of energy to be stored than a catapult can handle, and, as a result, larger projectiles can be launched. It is also far less susceptible to rain, humidity, or damage to small elements of the system causing the whole thing to fly apart violently. There are a few downsides, of course, such as the size of the trebuchet making it an easier target, as well as its general immobility, but in warfare the amount of damage a trebuchet is capable of above and beyond what a catapult can achieve certainly makes up for it.

My Trebuchet

I tried to focus on what a full-scale trebuchet would need in building mine. The launch is controlled by a small “finger” at the end of the throwing arm, at an angle to the arm. When the sling reaches a certain angle with this finger, the finger will no longer be able to hold the sling, releasing the sling and its payload. The pully system (image 2 below) for drawing the arm back down would be attached to a team of horses on a real trebuchet, who would pull the arm down to where it could be locked into place (image 3), at which point they would be unhitched from the system, the sling would be loaded, and the trebuchet would fire.

Works Cited:

  • Chevedden, Paul E., Les Eigenbrod, Vernard Foley, and Werner Soedel. “The Trebuchet.” Scientific American273, no. 1 (1995): 66-71.
  • Hacker, Barton C. “Greek Catapults and Catapult Technology: Science, Technology, and War in the Ancient World.” Technology and Culture9, no. 1 (1968): 34-50. doi:10.2307/3102042.
  • Chevedden, Paul E. “The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers54 (2000): 71-116. doi:10.2307/1291833.
  • Renatus, Publius F. V. De re militari. c. 400 A.D.
  • “The Lever.” Hyperphysics. (December 1, 2018).
  • “Trebuchet.” Wikipedia. (December 1, 2018).

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Changes In Shields Over Time

Shields are an important part of many soldiers’ equipment. Throughout the medieval period shields had many changes. The following will talk about why and how these changes happened. The earliest shield to be discussed will be the Greek hoplon. These were around a meter in diameter, made of hard wood, and were very heavy. They used 2 straps on the back to help distribute the weight of the shield. Later the Roman scutum was created. It was a tall rectangular shape, about shoulder to knee in height. This shield was even heavier than the hoplons but provided more protection because of its increased size. The Romans stand close together and create a wall of shields that allowed very little to penetrate . It protected the wielder’s legs meaning the Romans didn’t need to wear leg protecting greaves. Despite having larger and heavier shields the Romans had the fastest armies because they didn’t need leg protection. Around this same time, barbarians would usually have round shields similar to the hoplon. In fact, throughout most of the medieval period round shields were being used by many groups of people. A likely cause of round shields being a permanent shield type is circles are a very easy shape to make.


Roman shields and a demonstration of how they could overlap.

As time progressed the tall Roman scutum became less common. The next shield to replace it was the kite shield. It’s shaped like an upside-down teardrop and doesn’t weigh as much as the rectangular shield. Its pointed bottom allowed it to be stuck into the ground and stay put. When multiple of these are planted overlapping, it creates a wall that can stand by itself. This proves effective against charging cavalry that can’t jump over it and don’t have reason to hit the wall. Kite shields also can be effective at protecting a horse while on horseback. The long bottom provides a little protection for the horse. As armor for horses improved as well as leg protection for soldiers, tall shields became less useful. They shrank over time to become lighter and more maneuverable. The shorter shield is a heater shield, named after the shape of a clothes iron. These shields were much lighter and had straps on the back that would distribute the weight across the entire arm rather than just at the wrist like most other shields. Some shields even had a large strap that could be used to carry the shield on the back while not in use. Both kite and heater shields were used by cavalry.

As time continued and armor became more common, shields became smaller and lighter. The larger shields were being used for mostly tournaments and had a notch on the right side to rest a lance. Eventually the circular buckler became the most common shield. They were very small, about a foot in diameter, and often made of metal. They were very effective in smaller battles such as a duel or attacking another ship if you were a pirate. Bucklers could be used in many ways in a duel such as deflecting the opponent’s attack, pinning the opponent’s sword arm against them, or hiding one’s hand from the opponent making it harder to predict the next move. The pictures below show a examples of how they were used. A daring soldier could even try blocking an arrow flying straight towards them.

The buckler remained in use even after gunpowder for duels and some variations of fencing. Today, the only shield commonly used is the riot shield. It is very similar to the Roman scutum in both design and use. The most notable difference is it is held more like the heater shield with equal weight distribution.


Clemonts, J. (2002). The Sword & Buckler Tradition. Retrieved from Arma:

Devries, K., & Smith, R. D. (2012). Medieval Military Technology. North York: University of Toronto Press .

Manuscript illustration of two men fencing with sword and buckler. From the ‘Tower Fechtbuch’. German, late 13th century. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons:

Roman Shield (Scutum). June 17, 2005. From user MatthiasKabel. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons:

Richardson, T. (2011). Armour in England, 1325–99. Journal of Medieval History, 304-320.

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Means of Torture in the Ancient and Medieval World

Torture has taken many forms throughout history. Its usage has been justified by heavenly mandate as well as its aid to the court of law (Einolf, Tortureum). In major societies, your risk for torture was directly tied to your citizenship status. In the Roman Republic and the early Roman Empire, citizens were only tortured if convicted of treason. During the late empire, the social classes, honestores (first-class citizens) and humiliores (second-class) had differing levels of susceptibility. Honestores were subject to the same standards as before– tortured for treason only– while humiliores were often tortured during criminal proceedings. In ancient Greece, citizens were safe from state-sponsored torture but slaves and other non-citizens were at risk for any number of reasons. In fact, in criminal trials, torture would give legitimacy to testaments from slaves as it was commonly held that torture would reliably extract the truth from the questioned. Without being tortured, the statements from slaves would be inadmissible, so torture was, in this sense, necessary. (Einolf 107).

Aside from treason, torture could be used as punishment for those seen as heretic. Early Roman pagans might torture and kill Christians after a natural disaster in order to quell their gods, while state officials might punish Christians for not worshiping the emperor (Einolf 107). In the case of medieval Europe, accusations of witchcraft might also warrant torture. Interestingly, the modern idea of medieval torture dungeons is often exaggerated. Devices such as the “Pear of Anguish” and the “Iron Maiden” have long been dismissed by experts but are still sensationalized in media– whether it be movies, television, or tabloid lists (Konieczny 1-2). These devices are products of the 18th and 19th centuries, not medieval times. Medieval torture was less imaginative than the modern world commonly believes. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle of 1139 describes a variety of straightforward torture used by the Norman invaders of England:

They hanged them by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung fires on their feet; they put knotted strings about their heads, and writhed them so that it went to the brain … Some they put in a chest that was short, and narrow, and shallow, and put sharp stones therein, and pressed the man therein, so that they broke all his limbs … I neither can nor may tell all the wounds or all the tortures which they inflicted on wretched men in this land. Anglo-Saxon Chronicle 1139


Pear of Anguish – By Klaus D. Peter, Wiehl, Germany – Own work, CC BY 3.0,


Iron Maiden – By Lestat (Jan Mehlich) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Perhaps one of the most iconic means of torture was crucifixion. Though it was used as early as the 6th century BCE in Persia, death by crucifixion was most notable in the Roman world prior to the 4th century CE (Retief, et al).


Alexamenos graffito – Estimated 3rd century Roman graffiti mocking a Christian depicted as worshiping a crucified donkey – Public Domain,

Through this method, victims were shamed and left to die for all to see. Other notable– and verifiably legitimate– devices are “The Rack” and the “Brazen Bull,” both used in ancient Greece (Konieczny 4). The Rack was device in which a victim could be bound to and stretched at their limbs to the point of tearing. The Brazen Bull was a hollowed bronze bull in which a victim could be placed inside. Once locked inside, a fire was lit underneath, effectively roasting the victim. In later iterations, a series of tubes within the bull could serve the dual purpose of providing the victim with fresh air while also transferring the breaths and screams into the sounds of an infuriated bull, to the spectacle of onlookers.


The Rack as displayed in the Tower of London – By David Bjorgen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

brazen bull

Depiction of the Brazen Bull’s inventor, Perillos, being forced into his own device – By Pierre Woeiriot – Unknown, Public Domain,

Other means of torture included exposure and “scaphism.” Exposure was an effective and no-frills way to punish medieval wrongdoers. Victims could either be exposed– while naked– to freezing weather and doused in water, or to a blazing sun and doused with boiling water or oil. Another option was simply imprisoning the victim in a pillory or gibbet and leaving them exposed to whatever Mother Nature had to offer, as well as the mocking stares from their neighbors.


A pillory (left) and gibbet (right) – L A Vidler, G S Bagley, G Mayhew and Jo Kirkham

Scaphism, or “The Boats,” was a Persian practice best described the Greek biographer Plutarch:

“The king decreed that Mithridates should be put to death in boats; which execution is after the following manner: Taking two boats framed exactly to fit and answer each other, they lay down in one of them the malefactor that suffers, upon his back; then, covering it with the other, and so setting them together that the head, hands, and feet of him are left outside, and the rest of his body lies shut up within, they offer him food, and if he refuse to eat it, they force him to do it by pricking his eyes; then, after he has eaten, they drench him with a mixture of milk and honey, pouring it not only into his mouth, but all over his face. They then keep his face continually turned towards the sun; and it becomes completely covered up and hidden by the multitude of flies that settle on it. And as within the boats he does what those that eat and drink must needs do, creeping things and vermin spring out of the corruption and rottenness of the excrement, and these entering into the bowels of him, his body is consumed. When the man is manifestly dead, the uppermost boat being taken off, they find his flesh devoured, and swarms of such noisome creatures preying upon and, as it were, growing to his inwards. In this way Mithridates, after suffering for seventeen days, at last expired.” Plutarch, The Life of Artaxerxes


For my project, I built a miniature Brazen Bull. I constructed it out of popsicle sticks and aluminum foil. I used hot glue to bind materials together and a small balloon to form a “face” around. I built the “door” to the inside of the bull on the top, though sources point to the opening being located on the side.

After building the frame and covering it in layers of foil (the best I can do as a substitute for bronze), I lit a miniature fire (matchsticks, bits of wood, and paper inside an empty chicken can) and placed it underneath the bull. The fire quickly enshrouded the sides of the bull, though the bull itself did not catch fire. After removing the fire, I opened the bull and was able to feel the stifling heat inside. Considering that the actual Brazen Bull was made out of bronze, you can imagine the intense heat that the victim would suffer, both by direct conduction from the metal and the heated air inside. When it was used, it was sure to be a public spectacle. The combination of the imagery and the sounds that the enclosed victim would make would have made this torture device an overall theatrical experience for onlookers.

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“Alexamenos Graffito.” Wikipedia. November 11, 2018. Accessed December 13, 2018.

De La Sierra, Joaquin. “Medieval Torture.” Medievality. November 9, 2008. Accessed December 4, 2018.

Einolf, Christopher J. “The Fall and Rise of Torture: A Comparative and Historical Analysis.” Sociological Theory 25, no. 2 (2007): 101-21.

“History of Torture.” Tortureum. 2015. Accessed December 4, 2018.

Konieczny, Peter. “Why Medieval Torture Devices Are Not Medieval.” Archeologie Huis. March 20, 2016. Accessed December 7, 2018.

Plutarch. “Life of Artaxerxes.” Translated by John Dryden. Accessed December 12, 2018.

Retief, F. P., and L. Cilliers. “The History and Pathology of Crucifixion.” Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports. December 2003. Accessed December 07, 2018.

“Scaphism.” Omics International. 2014. Accessed December 10, 2018.

translated by James Ingram. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Champaign, Ill. : Boulder, Colo. :Project Gutenberg ; NetLibrary, 19901999.

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Chariots in Warfare (Part 3/3)


Chariot Structure

Egyptian chariots were the focus of my research, the Ancient Egyptians used the chariot to great effect in battle. An important reason behind this success is that the lands the Egyptians were fighting for had terrain that was perfectly suited for the chariot to travel on: flat and even. They redesigned the existing chariots and developed unique features that lead to their great success with the vehicle.

chariot 5

One of the chariots found in Tut’s tomb by Howard Carter

The Egyptians shaped the pieces of their chariots by using steam (Harvey). A piece of the proper size would been saturated with water until it was flexible, it would then be bent into the needed shape by several workers using a jig that would hold the wood in place until it dried. Pieces would be further shaped to fit properly with other pieces. The different pieces would be tied together using soaked strips of rawhide that would tighten when they dried. The body of the chariot was narrow back to front and wide enough to hold a driver and an archer. The front of the chariot would be covered in leather. The leather covering would have cutouts in it to reduce the overall weight of the chariot.

Screenshot 2018-12-12 at 12.04.27 PM

Horse in collection, indicated by the hind legs being bent

The harnesses were designed to put the horses in collection, which shifts the balance of the horse backwards, putting more weight on the hind legs. This position allows the horses to turn more quickly and easily when pulling the chariot (Hansen). This enhanced the maneuverability of the chariot, which was crucial in a battle.

Egyptian chariot wheels were built to be strong, flexible and light. This contrasted the existing style of Sumerian chariots which usually had heavy, solid and rigid wheels (Rovetta). We can see from Egyptian art that there was some experimentation in regards to the need of spokes on the wheel. There are depictions of wheels with only four spokes, this was likely an effort to lighten the weight of the chariot. They likely found that four spokes was not supportive enough for the wheels and so increased it to eight, which while supportive greatly increased the weight. The number of spokes was reduced to six, supportive but more lightweight than with eight spokes, this seems to have been the golden number as six spokes remained to be shown in artwork for the duration of the chariot’s use in Egypt (Harvey).

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We know from surviving chariots that the wheels were spaced far away from the bottom of the chariot, this would have added much needed stability. In addition to the widely spaced wheels the hubs of the wheels were wide, this would stabilize the wheels themselves. The inside of the hub would be coated in animal grease so the wheels were able to move smoothly (Rovetta). The construction of the wheels made for sturdy and stable wheels that we’re flexible enough to take some the the impact from uneven ground.

chariot 6

Axle positioned at the back of the platform

Another redesign the Egyptians made was to move the axle to the back of the main platform. Previous chariots had the axle positioned in the middle of the platform. This move made the base of the chariot move less and made for a more stable platform for the archer.

The the curved shaft also contributed toward the ‘suspension’ of the Egyptian chariot. The shaft was made of a single piece of wood bent into a flattened s-shaped curve. This piece was attached to the crossbar that connected the horses’ harnesses to the chariot. It was securely attached only at the back of the main platform and the front of the platform rested on this piece, which was also made of flexible wood. The flex of the wood took a lot of the impact from the uneven ground and the movement of the horses rather than it going straight to the platform (Harvey).  

The Ancient Egyptian chariots, such as those found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, could certainly be considered high performance vehicles for the time period. They were light, sturdy and quick. The many developments made to these chariots is what allowed the Egyptians to use them to such great effect.



Carter, Howard, and Jaromir Malek. Howard Carter’s Diary and Journal 1922.,

Hansen, Kathy. “Collection in Ancient Egyptian Chariot Horses.” Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, vol. 29, 1992, pp. 173–179. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Harvey, Steven, et al. “Building Pharaoh’s Chariot.” Nova, season 40, episode 5, PBS, 6 Feb. 2013.

Rovetta, Alberto, et al. “Erratum to ‘The Chariots of the Egyptian Pharaoh Tut Ankh Amun in 1337 B.c: Kinematics and Dynamics.’” Mechanism and Machine Theory, vol. 35, no. 11, 2000, pp. 1651–1653., doi:10.1016/s0094-114x(00)00027-6.


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Chariots in Warfare (Part 2/3)

Uses of Chariots

Chariots were used in the west from about 1600 BCE to about 100 CE (Forte and Caley, 188). Though there is some evidence of usage before and after this time, these pre- and post- cursor models were not examples of true chariots because the rigging supports a seated driver and there are more than two wheels.

Chariots served two major functions in the ancient and early medieval periods: sport and warfare. The use of chariots in battle was somewhat limited by terrain. For example, the Greeks did have use of battle chariots as mentioned in Homer’s Iliad, however, the ground in Greece an

Image result for charioteer four horses greek vase

Charioteer- Four Horses Greek Vase

d most of the surrounding countries was too uneven for chariots to be useful in their full capacity. Because of this they were mostly used to ferry warriors in and out of battle and to deliver messages. “When they reached the ranks of the Trojans and Achaeans they left the chariot, and with measured pace advanced into the space between the hosts” (Homer, 60). Here two warriors ride into battle and abandon their chariot upon arrival for someone else to use, or steal. Homer’s descriptions of war chariots and their use in battle has been invaluable to historians that would’ve been otherwise baffled at the strategy employed by the Greeks when using chariots ( Stagakis).


Parade Chariot with Archery Riggig

When used effectively in battle there are two passengers per chariot; one to drive and  one to fight. Combat was usually done with a bow and arrow, but a spear was also used, though less effective due to its limited range as a melee weapon and its even more limited use as a ranged weapon. Truly, the pinnacle of chariot warfare were the Egyptian chariots. They were the fastest and most maneuverable chariots in the west for centuries, capable of thundering quickly into battle to disrupt enemy lines with a barrage of arrows and sharply turning to race out of enemy range, they were a sight to behold (Harvey).

Despite the famous accounts of Greek usage in the Iliad, and the military might of Egyptian war chariots, arguably the most well known use of chariots was for sport. The Romans used chariots briefly for battle before retiring them to parades and, having been influenced by the Greek Olympics during the He

Tomb of a Roman official and his wife showing a chariot race (c. AD 130)

Tomb of Roman Official and His Wife

llenistic age, races. These races were extraordinarily dangerous, a piece in the British Museum depicts a Etruscan chariot racing accident  “… great confusion: contorted horses overturned, legs flailing, a broken chariot with its wheels seeming to spin” (Banducci, 1). The Races served as a distraction for the public, becoming invested enough to riot.


Banducci, L.M. “MOURNING DEATHS AND ENDANGERING LIVES: ETRUSCAN CHARIOT RACING BETWEEN SYMBOL AND REALITY.” Papers of the British School at Rome, vol. 82, 2014, pp. 1–39.,

“Charioteer- Four Horses Greek Vase.” Getty Images, Greece, Depicts a Greek charioteer and soldier on a quadriga chariot.

Forte, Alexander S. W., and Caley C. Smith. “New Riders, Old Chariots: Poetics and Comparative Philosophy.” Universe and Inner Self in Early Indian and Early Greek Thought, edited by RICHARD SEAFORD, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2016, pp. 186–203. JSTOR,

Harvey, Steven, et al. “Building Pharaoh’s Chariot.” Nova, season 40, episode 5, PBS, 6 Feb. 2013.

Homer, , Richmond Lattimore, and Richard P. Martin. The Iliad of Homer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. Print.

Parade Chariot with Archery Rigging. 10 Dec. 2018.

Stagakis, George J. “Charioteers and Παϱαιβάται of the ‘Iliad.’” Historia: Zeitschrift Für Alte Geschichte, vol. 29, no. 2, 1980, pp. 142–164. JSTOR, JSTOR,

“Tomb of Roman Official and His Wife.” Chariot Racing, Spartacus Education Publishers, Rome, Aug. 2014,


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Chariots in Warfare (Part 1/3)

Somebodycallixii and beholdaman:

Even though we completed a project we have elected to split our blog post into three for ease of reading. This first section is about the process we used to build our model chariot.


Supplies for building the model chariot

We wanted to imitate the actual methods the Egyptians used to build their chariots as closely as we could.  We referenced several of the chariots discovered in the tomb of King Tut to build our replica. These chariots are some of the best examples we have of an Egyptian chariots, they would have been built around 1350 BC, and detailed drawings were made when the tomb was discovered that we used for further reference beyond the photos. The chariot we chose to build our model of would have been more of a parade chariot than a war chariot, the only major difference is the covering on the front of the chariot. A war chariot would have had a leather covering to reduce weight rather that the metal plated wood we replicated on our model.


Wood bending


Difficulty with the wheels

They used steam to bend their wood, we actually submerged our wood in hot water because it was faster, but it produced the same result. We did not have the means to build several miniature jigs to hold our pieces at the proper angles, so we settled for using binder clips to clamp the pieces to whatever we could find that looked like the correct angle. This worked for most of the bend pieces, but the bend required for the wheel spokes proved too much for the low quality wood we had to work with, most of the pieces broke enough that they would not have been stable. Eventually we had to give up on making the spokes authentically and used single pieces to represent the six spokes.  

The Egyptians bound their wood with strips of rawhide or leather, which we represented at some points with white string. We decided to use hot glue for our model because we did not have the patience to wrap and tie that much string, though we did imitate the appearance of rawhide on some joints of our model. The pharaoh’s chariot would have been finely carved and decorated with metal leaf, we are poor college students, so we opted for metallic sharpie on paper instead.

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Bayeux Tapestry Recreation Project

The Bayeux Tapestry is a recording of the Battle of Hastings, and was probably made in the 1000s and commissioned by Odo of Bayeux, half-brother to William the Conqueror. It’s over 70 meters long and was embroidered over a period of 10 years by multiple nuns. There is a replica in England, while the original is displayed in Normandy, France. The Tapestry depicts the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, who led his Norman tribes against the Saxons, who were led by Harold, Earl of Wessex. William’s victory against Harold in the Battle of Hastings was a key part in the Norman invasion of England.

King Edward had offered William the throne of Britain in 1051, and died in 1066 of illness, leaving the throne to Harold. The Normans claimed that William had prior claim to the throne, and so William prepared for invasion while Harold prepared to fight back, while also fighting off other petitioners to the throne. Harold was killed at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, but it took William until 1070 to completely appease the region. He built many castles and other fortified buildings in order to maintain the peace. The Battle of Hastings was the last successful invasion of Britain. The Norman cavalry consisted of mercenaries and nobles, and bows and crossbows were used. The British army consisted of only infantry who used battleaxes and shieldwalls.

There is debate over whether the Tapestry is an accurate record of the Norman invasion and the Battle of Hastings. While some things may be accurate, others may have been altered or exaggerated. Because we don’t know for sure who created it, we can’t be sure any of the information is correct unless confirmed through other sources. The Tapestry has been repaired or altered in places over time as well, and because embroidery is not accurate to details, we can assume that the armies were not set up the way they are in the tapestry. Each scene in the tapestry is separate, although the scenes are connected, so the linear timeline is probably accurate enough granted that we take into consideration the odd layout of the figures within the tapestry itself. The Norman and British soldiers are also dressed the same way, and so the only differentiation is whether they are on horseback or not.

The Tapestry consists of English style embroidery and was likely made to fit a traditional European rectangular building. The art and language used is similar to other Anglo-Saxon art of the time and is told from the point of view of the Normans (depicting several Norman soldiers by name), and so was likely made in England after William took over.

I wasn’t able to completely finish the section, but I got just over half of it done. When I finish it I can upload a picture here.

Bayeux Tapestry. Romanesque Europe (English or Norman). c. 1066-1080 C.E. Wool embroidery on linen.

Wilson, David. The Bayeux Tapestry: The Complete Tapestry in Color. 1985.

Britain’s Bayeux Tapestry at Reading Museum

Dodwell, C. R. “The Bayeux Tapestry and the French Secular Epic.” The Burlington Magazine, vol. 108, no. 764, 1966, pp. 549–560. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Bayeux Tapestry Creation


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The Siege of Jerusalem in the first Crusade

Here we will talk about two things regarding the Siege of Jerusalem. I will mention why the 1st Crusade started in the first place, and then I will move on to what the actual battle was like.

There are two main reasons why the 1st crusade started. The first reason being that Hakim, part of the Fatmid caliph, ordered the Holy Sepulchre to be destroyed, and they leveled most of it -leaving mostly just the first floor-. The second reason being that the Crusaders were responding to the preaching of Urban II.” the turks had in their frenzy invaded and ravaged the churches of God in the east and seized the Holy City.” Urban had proposed that people should go on a religious conquest to Jerusalem to liberate the Pagans and Muslims of their sins at Clermont cathedral in Auverne on Tuesday, November 27th 1095. (Tyerman. p27&p58) These two factors caused a wave of a Crusading spirit in Europe. Some would compare this situation to a more recent event; Osama Bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers and President Bush’s call to battle.

The crusaders marched mostly unopposed into Palestine in May of 1099, reaching Jerusalem on June 7th. Pressured by the Egyptian army coming to help the defenders of Jerusalem, the crusaders started siege on Jerusalem right away (Tyerman pg. 60). Jerusalem fell in 5 weeks, in which the Crusaders were able to turn around and defend their occupation of Jerusalem against the Egyptians.


Depiction of what a typical battering ram would have looked like during the Siege of Jerusalem in 1099.  “Battering Ram.” Encyclopedia Brittanica. Accessed December 3, 2018.

One major thing that affected the strategy of the crusaders was that the city was big enough that the city could not be entirely surrounded by the Crusading armies. The crusaders originally started by attacking only the west wall, but then split the army in half and attacked the west section of the north wall (Robert of Normandy, Robert of Flanders, Godfrey of Bouillon, Tancred) and the south wall (Raymond of St. Gilles) simultaneously. On the 8th of July, the crusaders walked around the city of Jerusalem, expecting similar results of what had happened at Jericho (Riley-Smith). Between July 9th and 10th of 1099, The Crusaders built siege equipment -including a siege tower and a battering ram- close to the quadrangular tower. They then disassembled the equipment and reassembled it on the northeastern side of the city. The reasoning behind that is because that part of the city was not only less fortified, but also had flatter ground for the equipment to rest on. (France).


The arrangement of the Crusading armies in relation to Jerusalem from July 7th to July 12th. France, John. Victory in the East: A Military history of the First Crusade. Cambridge University Press. 1994. pp. 339. Figure 17b.

The 14th was spent filling in a ditch to get the siege tower across.  Once the equipment was across the ditch, the equipment was slowly inched closer to the outside wall. In an attempt to stop the crusaders from advancing, the defenders attempted unsuccessfully to light the two structures on fire, in which the Crusaders used precious water to put out. (France).

The Crusaders had their battering ram leading the charge, with the siege tower following close behind it. The battering ram got up to the outside wall and was successful in forming a breach in the outside wall; there was a problem, however. The inside wall of the city was much more fortified and the crusaders knew that the battering ram would not suffice. It is a good thing that they thought to build a siege tower, but the battering ram was in the way of it. The ram could not go backwards because the siege tower was in the way, and the ram could not be moved forward and then turned to the side because of the proximity of the two walls. So, the Crusaders lit it on fire. The Defenders saw this and counteracted by trying to dump water off the wall on to the battering ram. They were unsuccessful and the ram burned to the ground. Afterwards, the crusaders were allowed to move their siege tower forward (France). In a final attempt to keep the siege tower away from the wall, the defenders strung a chain between the wall and the siege tower and attacked a flaming log onto it. This would have worked to burn down the siege tower, except the crusaders were smart enough to have soaked the tower in vinegar to make it fire resistant.  The Crusaders eventually got a hold of the log and ended up pulling it down and out of the way (France). After fighting the defenders off the wall, two knights from Tournai were the first to cross, followed by the Lorrainers. (Riley-Smith).

On the south side of the city, the crusaders were not doing so well.  The crusaders had a vicious time trying to fill in the moat that the defenders had built so that they could get their siege engines across, and even when that was completed, the battle got even tougher. The defenders made use of their wooden mallets by sticking a nail through it, and then lighting the mallet on fire, making a perfect fire starter for any object that the mallet gets stuck to. The crusaders also had to content with a machine called the noviter adinvento machinamento. This machine was used to launch flaming balls of resin, pitch, and hair into the crusader’s camps, causing hard to quench fires; and it was padded to the extent that the crusaders could not destroy it with it’s missiles. To counteract the machine, the crusaders launched a beam with a grappling hook on the end that grabbed the padding, in which the crusaders were able to pull the padding away from the machine and destroy it with missiles. Even with that small victory, the Crusaders were considering surrender. The main thing that stopped them was hearing that the north had breached through, so it was only a matter of time before the defenders were sandwiched in. Upon hearing the news, the crusaders made an advance (France).

*It is also important to mention that part of the reason why the Southern front was having so much trouble is that the Crusader’s camp was within bow shot of the wall.

Once the Northern front had gotten through, the defenders got sandwiched into the citadel, where the defenders made a truce with the Crusaders. The army would be spared, in exchange that the Citadel would surrender. Both sides agreed. However, a few days later, the Crusaders realized that there was a problem with keeping the people of Jerusalem alive. The Egyptian army was on their way to take back Jerusalem and the Crusaders did not want to have to deal with a rebellion within the city while trying to defend Jerusalem against the Egyptians, so the Crusaders massacred everyone (France). That marks the end of the Jerusalem Siege during the First Crusade.


Riley-Smith, Johnathan. The Crusades: A History. Bloomsbury Academic. 3rd edition. 2014. pp. 64-65.

Tyerman, Christopher. God’s War: A New History of the Crusades. Belknap Press. Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. 2006. pp. 27,58,& 60.

France, John. Victory in the East: A Military history of the First Crusade. Cambridge University Press. 1994. pp. 348, 350

“Battering Ram.” Encyclopedia Brittanica. Acessed December 3, 2018.

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