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Siege Weapons Part 2

Mangonel: a type of catapult. It’s name comes from a Greek-Latin word for war machine.

The mangonel was a siege weapon used to launch rocks, dung, bales of hay (set on fire), dead bodies, wooden spikes, and hostages (very few hostages survived) over or at a walled fortress.  Hostages were launched from mangonels to scare the people inside the wall. The dead bodies and dung were launched to spread diseases to the people in the fortress or castle.

Mangonels work by a mechanism called torsion. Torsion is when you take ropes and twist them and stick the throwing arm in the twisted ropes.  When you pull the throwing arm down and lock it in place the ropes spring the throwing arm forward.  It took one person in full armor to pull the throwing arm down and hold it down in place while another person put the lock in, which is on a rope or string, so when somebody pulled the string the throwing arm was released.  The projectile was then launched forward over the castle wall. Some people were too light and when they pulled the throwing arm down enough they went flying into the castle wall. Sounds like a dangerous job…

In the Siege of Dover in 1216 among many siege weapons used, the mangonel and trebuchet were the favorite catapults of the French army. The French sieged Dover so they could get control of the ports and docks in England so they could send a ship inland toward the capital city and attack. But the French never got past Dover (only the objects launched by the mangonels got “passed over”).

Today mangonels are mainly made for hitting people with water balloons and tennis balls. And in some cases, marshmallows. Most people make them because they are interested in siege weapons, physics, and people who like medieval history.

mangonel shot
Mangonel shot used in the Siege of Bedford Castle in 1224

Siege Weapons Part 1

The  ancient Assyrians were one of the first civilizations to use the battering ram, although it’s more commonly known as a medieval weapon.  Battering rams were made to knock down walls and gates; some even had real sheep heads on them.  Others  had spikes on them to pull down wooden gates.  They are still being used today in smaller sizes to knock down doors.

Assyrian_battering_ram