Siege warfare is the art of taking a fort or fortified city.
Siege warfare is the art of taking a fort or fortified city. In a passive siege, the besiegers attempted to starve the defenders by sealing off the
Fortifications go back at least to Neolithic times. Seven thousand years
The Roman ballista, circa 50
Although besiegers undoubtedly circumvallated cities almost from the beginning of siege warfare, the ancient Greek historian
To shorten sieges, more aggressive methods were necessary.
Because walls in ancient
The construction of siege
By at least the early second millennium
The Assyrians were the first to develop tactically integrated siege armies. Siege warfare was like a giant construction project. The construction of siege towers and siege ramps and the undermining of walls required large amounts of manpower and the ability to organize labor. Assyrian siege armies deployed a variety of skilled troops–sappers, archers, slingers, assault troops, and battering ram crews–and Assyrian commanders knew how to coordinate them toward a common tactical purpose.
The most important development in siege
The next step in the development of catapults was the application of torsion power in which ropes were wound tightly with a windlass. The sudden release of the tension released a powerful burst of energy. Little is known about the origins of the torsion catapult. The Macedonian king Philip
In Hellenistic times, siege warfare became more technical and the equipment more complicated. The Macedonian commander Demetrius
Although the siege equipment of republican Rome was somewhat haphazard, siege machinery was a regular part of the Roman imperial army’s equipment. Each legion was equipped with ten catapults as well as engineers and sappers. A Roman battering ram was a heavy beam with an iron head in the shape of a ram’s head. The Romans used all sizes of catapults. In general Romans seemed to have called their smaller catapults
A drawing of a trebuchet, after Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey (1842-1916), A Summary of the History, Construction, and Effects in Warfare of the Projectile-Throwing Engines of the Ancients (1907). Such siege weapons of antiquity reappeared throughout the medieval period, as the building of castles proliferated.
Large trebuchets were expensive and relatively rare. In the Siege of
Despite the impressive array of siege machinery, the reduction of powerfully fortified cities remained difficult throughout ancient and medieval times. Sieges were often time-consuming and expensive. Well-defended, well-provisioned cities could hold out for months or even years. Ancient armies fed themselves by foraging, and when they stopped moving, they soon exhausted food supplies in their immediate area, presenting siege commanders with difficult logistical problems. Siege armies labored in unhealthy circumstances. The disposal of human and animal waste was difficult. Disease was a major killer.
Against this background, psychological
Sieges placed cities under great stress, and siege commanders attempted to exploit any social or political fault lines in the hope that traitors would betray the city. This ploy was especially useful in Greek siege warfare. During the Peloponnesian War (431-404
The introduction of gunpowder in the fourteenth century brought an end to a long epoch in siege warfare, which had changed little since ancient times. By the fifteenth century
Anglim, Simon, et al. “Siege Warfare.” In Fighting Techniques of the Ancient World, 3,000 b.c.-500 a.d.: Equipment, Combat Skills, and Tactics. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2002. Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege. Woodbridge, England: Boydell Press, 1992. Campbell, Duncan B. Ancient Siege Warfare: Persians, Greeks, Cathaginians, and Romans, 546-146 B.C. Illustrated by Adam Hook. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2004. _______. Besieged: Siege Warfare in the Ancient World. Botley, Oxford, England: Osprey, 2006. Corfis, Ivy A., and Michael Wolfe, eds. The Medieval City Under Siege. Rochester, N.Y.: Boydell Press, 1995. DeVries, Kelly. Guns and Men in Medieval Europe, 1200-1500: Studies in Military History and Technology. Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate/Variorum, 2002. Gabriel, Richard A. “Siegecraft and Artillery.” In The Ancient World. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2007. Kern, Paul Bentley. Ancient Siege Warfare. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1999. Marsden, E. W. Greek and Roman Artillery. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1969. Yadin, Yigael. The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands in the Light of Archeological Discovery. London: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Arms in Action: Castles and Sieges. Documentary. History Channel, 1999. Nova: Medieval Siege. Documentary. Public Broadcasting Service, 2004.
Sieges and Siege Techniques: Modern