Unlike the trebuchet, the ballista is a so-called “spring” gear. Its operation is based on various mechanisms using the action of two levers on torsion springs, consisting of several bundles of twisted fibers. Early versions threw heavy arrows or spherical projectiles, like stones of different sizes.
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The crossbows were already known in ancient China but apparently invented again in Europe around 900. They had a good reach and were more powerful than most bows, although it took them much longer to load. A crossbowman could fire an average of two arrows per minute.
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Just a few centuries ago, when you wanted to “sack another city/kingdom”, you had to do it through a siege. If you don’t know what a siege is, it’s basically when you get an army, and some massive tools, to mow down the city defenses of an opponent, before taking it over.
Those war techniques have obviously been rendered useless through the existence of missiles and airplane bombing. Nevertheless, we’re not discussing this for the sake of “war practicality”. Our focus here is on understanding history warfare, and how it evolved into what it is now.
Continue reading Your guide to medieval siege weapons