Medieval Castle Attack & Defence -
History of Castle Weapons & Siege Engines

The first history of castle weaponary such as the use of arrows and spears can be found in ancient inscriptions in Egypt which show arrows and spears being used around 1,000 B.C. There is also evidence of scaling ladders also being used.

After this we get evidence from Assyrian sculptures. They show men advancing using shields as protection and arches under cover of Mantlets which would be held in front by their attendants. Mantlets were light screens constructed on a wooden frame and large enough to provide protection.

The castle defenders fought from the battlements of the walls. Arrows, stones and fire were used to defend the castle. Around this time the use of battering rams was introduced. The rams were shod with iron and he usually covered by raw hides as a protection against five. The castle defenders would often try to ensnare the ram with large hooks.

Siege towers were also in use. Built of timber and running on wheels they could be two or more storeys high.

Fire was used by both the attackers and defenders. Flaming torches were common defense.

Around th 6th century BC there is evidence of mines being dug underneath castles walls. Initially the mines were probably designed to gain access to castle but later uses revolved around burning timbers in the large cavities dug underneath the walls as a means of attack. This would destabilize any constructions above ground.

Gateways were always recognized as a vulnerable points. This led to the development of the portcullis - a gate made of wood or metal or a combination of the two - which was mounted in a vertical groove within the castle walls. It could be raised or lowered very quickly by the use of chains and ropes which would be attached to a winch.

From around 300 BC. we start to hear about siege engines - a type of weapons that was designed to hurl large stones. A later development of that with which we are more familiar today is the trebuchet.

Around the same time there is evidence of many successful sieges being achieved by escalade.