Ballista

Sharp Pointy Siege Weapon

ballista1I have always been intrigued by siege engines and larger weapons that were used in warfare during the Middle Ages.  The Ballista was developed by the Greeks and Romans but it survived into the Middle Ages , though the advent of the longbow and the crossbow made them less and less the weapon of choice in Western Europe.  Firing sharpened projectiles or spherical objects the ballista was very useful for dispatching groups of soldiers and smaller version became the first long range sniper weapons.

The Greeks and Romans used the ballista as a siege weapon mounted from a stationary location and then fired into a group of soldiers.  The large bolts (think crossbow bolt only much bigger) that were fired from these large weapons caused the ranks of the other armies of the day to break.  The close and compact way that the soldiers of the time used when they went into combat made them easy targets for the ballista operators of the day.  As time progressed, they found that the ballista could be mounted on a chariot style frame and then became a mobile weapon – like the first movable artillery of the day.  Still later, the ballista was streamlined and the range was increased, this made the ballista a deadly sniper weapon.

ballista2The way the ballista worked was simply.  Like a crossbow, the heavy weapon had twisted skein of material that would eject the projectiles with the flip of a switch.  The material used to eject the projectile, the amount of tension put on the material both had an effect on the distance and ferocity of the projectile.  When the projectile struck a line of soldiers, the ones that were not struck by the projectile would scatter, breaking the lines.  In the siege of a fortification, the spherical projectiles would be used to soften targets either in the fortification or from the fortification into the attacking army.

With the Middle Ages, the ballista was used in siege warfare.  Unfortunately, the ballista was not as effective against the looser ranks of the European style of warfare, the Castles were more difficult to damage with a ballista and though ti could still be used from the battlements of a castle to snipe soldiers in the attacking army, the advent of the crossbow and the use of the longbow made the ballista a thing of the past.  It was expensive, it was hard to move and the crossbow was just a much better option.  As a siege weapon, the trebuchet and the catapult were much more effective in siege warfare and they could cause vastly more damage.