Tag Archives: War

You Know What’s Cool? Siege Machines.

27 Sep

Okay, war and war-related stuff usually isn’t my thing, but this snazzy invention is a pretty cool solution to the problem of fortifications. I was watching the movie Kingdom of Heaven yesterday (really bad movie- I recommend NOT watching it. Orlando Bloom really cannot carry a movie by himself), and the only redeeming thing about the movie was the interesting Medieval battle scenes. Historical inaccuracies aside, at one point, the city of Jerusalem is being besieged by Saladin’s forces and they use these awesome siege machines/towers.
Now, I don’t know about you, but in my imagination, Medieval fortifications are really tough to get past- I mean that was the whole point of fortifications anyways, wasn’t it? Once they started incorporating flaming trebuchets and stuff (and later, explosives and guns), it made it way easier to break into giant, well-fortified castles, but before then, castles must have seemed almost impenetrable, right? Well, my imagination forgot to consider siege machines, which really are a brilliant answer to the problem of high stone walls.

So what is it? A siege machine is a big rolling tower with troops on it. The attacking army rolls it up the the fortified walls and when it gets close enough, releases a wooden bridge-type thing from the top of the tower. The attacking troops then stream across the bridge and into the fortified castle/city. Brilliant! The craziest part is that Medieval people didn’t think this up- siege machines have been around since the 9th century BC! The first recording of siege machines is in Assyria, from approx. 865-860BC.

Assyrian siege machine, 865-860 BC. British Museum.
Because they worked so well, everybody and their cousin used to use siege machines. In addition to the Assyrians, ancient Chinese people, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Medieval English people, and both sides in the Crusades all used siege towers in their various wars and conflicts.
19th century drawing of a Medieval English siege machine.
I’m thinking that pretty much the only thing that could stop a siege machine would be…a moat. Kind of hard to roll over that, huh? You’d have to build a bridge over the moat in order to get your siege machine past. Or you could build your castle on the side of a cliff or a mountain, which would also make it hard to roll a siege machine.

Regardless, I definitely think that siege machines are one of the coolest things ever- and they must have worked pretty well if they were used by tons of different cultures over thousands of years.