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This engine was of much more recent invention than the catapult or the
the Greeks and Romans. It is said to have been introduced into siege
the French in the twelfth century. On the other hand, the catapult
and the ballista
were in use several centuries before
the Christian Era. Egidio Colonna gives
a fairly accurate description of the trebuchet, and writes of it, about
1280, as though
it were the most effective siege weapon of his time.
The projectile force of this weapon was obtained from the gravitation
heavy weight, and not from twisted cordage as in the catapult and ballista.
From about the middle of the twelfth
century, the trebuchet in great
measure superseded the catapult. This
preference for the trebuchet was probably
due to the fact that it was able to cast stones of about 300 lbs. in weight,
or five or six times as heavy as those which the largest catapults could
The stones thrown by the siege catapults of the time of Josephus would
doubt destroy towers and battlements,
as the result of the constant and
concentrated bombardment of many engines. One huge stone of from 200
lbs., as slung from a trebuchet,
would, however, shake the strongest defensive
The trebuchet was essentially an engine for destroying the upper part
walls of a fortress, so that it might be entered by
means of scaling ladders or in
other ways. The catapult, by reason
of its longer range, was of more
service in causing havoc to the people and dwelling inside the defenses
of a town.
From experiments with models of good size and from other sources, I
that the largest trebuchets--those with
arms of about 50 ft. in length and
counterpoises about 20,000 lbs.--were capable
of slinging a stone from 200 to
300 lbs. in weight to a distance of 300 yards, a range of 350 yards
being, in my
opinion, more than these engines were able to attain.2
1 The catapult had, besides, become an inferior engine to
what it was some centuries before the trebuchet was introduced, the art
of its construction having been neglected.
2 Egidio Colonna tells us that the trebuchet was sometimes
made without a counterpoise, and that in such a case the arm of the engine
was worked by a number of men pulling together instead of by a heavy weight.
I cannot believe this, as however many men pulled at the arm of a trebuchet
they could not apply
nearly the force that would be conveyed by the gravitation of a heavy
The arm is fully wound down and the tackle of the windlass is detached
from it. The stone is in the sling and the engine is about to be discharged
by pulling the slip-hook off the end of the arm. The slip-hook is similar
to the one shown in fig.10.
N.B.--A Roman soldier is anachronistically shown in this picture.
The trebuchet was invented after the time of the Romans.
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