Siege – How to take a Medieval Castle when you don’t have a Catapult

In the later centuries of the Middle Ages siege engines were often employed to take down the walls of a medieval castle. But in the early centuries an attacking army often did not have the skill, resources, or time to build and use siege engines so they employed other very ingenious methods including biological warfare.

A Medieval Castle is a fortress built out of thousands of tons of stone and designed for maximum safety and security yet they were still taken and often by very devious means. Here were some of these simpler and less technological ways that castles were sieged.

Deception: Spies were used to infiltrate the castle. They could, at night, open the castle gates or wreak havoc on the interior defenses of the castle. The most famous case of this tactic is the Trojan Horse.

Treachery: Someone trusted within the power structure of the castle could give misleading information that would bring down the castle. He could for example report that there were many more troops sieging the castle than there actually were. This would induce the castle residents to either revolt or surrender out of fear.

Starvation: This was a method used but it often meant many months, sometimes even a year or more. The sieging army would station itself around the castle and not allow any form of commerce. Eventually the inhabitants would surrender due to imminent starvation.

Biological warfare: Yep that's right. A sieging force could launch the remains of rotting corpses into the castle causing outbreaks of life-threatening illness.

Simple Storm: The sieging force could carry on an all-out attack at various points of the castle. This overwhelming would hopefully break through in some places causing a collapse in defenses.

Tunneling: The sieging army would actually dig tunnels under the castle. The hope was not so much for an entry into the castle but for a way to collapse the castle defenses. It was because of this technique that many Medieval Castles had moats around them. A moat would cause the collapse and filling with water of any attempted tunnels.

Because the walls and fortifications of medieval castles were so well built an attacking army would often employ methods that didn’t directly attack them. Instead they found and used a host of other means to either attack the inhabitants or get them to surrender. It is partially due to this process that many medieval castles still stand to this day.

 

The Medieval Siege -

The chapter on weaponry is descriptive and there are excellent drawings as well as contemporary illustrations. Equally, the final chapter on the conduct of sieges is admirably forthright... the index is particularly good. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT In medieval warfare, the siege predominated: for every battle, there were hundreds of sieges. Yet the rich and vivid history of siege warfare has been consistently neglected. Jim Bradbury's panoramic survey takes the history of siege warfare in Europe from the late Roman Empire to the 16th century, and includes sieges in Byzantium, Eastern Europe and the areas affected by the Crusades. Within this broad sweep of time and place, he finds, not that enormous changes occurred, but that the rules and methods of siege warfare remained remarkably constant. Included are detailed studies of some of the major sieges including Constantinople and Chateau-Gaillard. Throughout, Bradbury supports his narrative with chronicles and letters. irst-hand accounts of danger, famine and endurance bring the acute reality of siege warfare clearly before the reader. JIM BRADBURY is the author of The Medieval Archer; he writes and lectures on battles and warfare in England and France in the middle ages.

 

 

Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons

In this richly illustrated guide, author Konstantin Nossov masterfully analyzes and recreates the weaponry, tactics, and stratagems of the ancient world. He offers first a comprehensive history of siege warfare in Ancient Egypt, Assyria, Judea, Persia, Greece, and Rome as well as Gaul, the Byzantine Empire, the Muslim world, and Medieval Europe. Discover, among other weapons, how scaling ladders, battering rams, borers, siege towers, throwing machines, and finally cannons developed over time. Numerous charts, illustrations, photographs, and tables explain how engineers constructed and adjusted these weapons and how warriors employed them on the battlefield. Chapters on methods of attack and defense show the weapons in action and reveal the various strategies used to implement and to overcome them. Based on an in-depth analysis of the work of ancient engineers, historians, and generals—including Apollodorus, Herodotus, Julius Caesar, Leonardo da Vinci, Livy, Plutarch, Thucydides, Vitruvius, and others— Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons not only shows you how to recreate the siege weapons themselves but provides a deeper, clearer picture of the history of war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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