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A descriptive review of catapults and crossbow

Thursday, December 15, 2016 Arcuballista: So, manuballista the Latin variant of the Gr.

  1. Weapons such as slings and staff-slings are clearly hand-held weapons however and, by implication, so must arcuballistae.
  2. As long as one does not take it too seriously, then one will likely have fun reading it.
  3. They would be wrong. Moreover, by repeatedly referring to manuballistae and arcuballistae separately Vegetius, and other authors such as Arrian, is clear that the latter are different from torsion powered bolt-shooters and stone-throwers.

Most scholars[2][3][4][5] seem to agree that this weapon was a torsion-powered bolt-shooter, but debate on its configuration is effectively divided into two camps: As for the arcuballista, its name suggests it incorporated an arcus Lat. Unfortunately Vegetius does not describe the latter any further assuming that his contemporary readers would be familiar with their form and function.

Weapons such as slings and staff-slings are clearly hand-held weapons however and, by implication, so must arcuballistae. Moreover, by repeatedly referring to manuballistae and arcuballistae separately Vegetius, and other authors such as Arrian, is clear that the latter are different from torsion powered bolt-shooters and stone-throwers. So, if arcuballistae are not torsion-powered, then it seems logical that they were very similar to medieval crossbows using flexion bows.

Thus we turn to the crossbows depicted on the Gallo-Roman reliefs shown below from Salignac left and Saint Marcel right [6]. These are obviously not gastraphetes belly-bows as they lack the distinctive crescent-shaped stomach rests characteristic of such weapons.

  1. D 1991 , op.
  2. In actuality, the Christians were about to embark on the suckiest vacation in history.
  3. These are obviously not gastraphetes belly-bows as they lack the distinctive crescent-shaped stomach rests characteristic of such weapons.
  4. Finds of something similar have been discovered in Britain and dated to the 5th or 6th century AD. Drawing back of the round handle at the rear of the stock might equally have been involved in releasing the nut.

Nor is there any sign of winching mechanism for spanning the bows. Are these then the elusive arcuballistae? From a photograph of the Salignac relief in his article[7], Baatz suggests a plausible reconstruction of an arcuballista: It is unclear whether the reliefs depict self-bows or composites; both were known and used by the Romans. A reconstruction of a arcuballista could, quite reasonably, use either.

It is unlikely that a steel prod was used as in later medieval crossbows, however. No known contemporary spanning devices have been discovered, and none are shown on the surviving French reliefs.

To span an arcuballista, a sketch in Baatz shows the arcuballistarius placing a foot on the belly of the bow, either side of the stock, and drawing the bowstring by hand. So, the draw weight of the arcuballista cannot be so great that the bow cannot be spanned by hand.

Giant Crossbow

Likewise, using the same method of measurement, a bow length of c. Using the length of the depicted quiver on the relief from Saint Marcel, Baatz makes the assumption that missiles were of similar length to arrows shot from standard bows.

Furthermore, with the nut placed at the end of the stock, Baatz also assumes that the draw length was longer than that of later crossbows, and thus longer arrows could be used rather than shorter bolts.

A descriptive review of catapults and crossbow

From the Saint Marcel relief there does appear to be a revolving nut. Finds of something similar have been discovered in Britain and dated to the 5th or 6th century AD.

These, quite naturally, have been attributed to a form of late Roman crossbow. Releasing the nut may well have been effected with a trigger bar beneath the stock in similar fashion to medieval weapons. Drawing back of the round handle at the rear of the stock might equally have been involved in releasing the nut. Pushing the handle forward may have engaged a straight trigger bar in a notch integral to the revolving nut. Precisely how the mechanism operated, however, remains a matter of conjecture.

All images from Baatz.

  • History of the crossbow;
  • I suppose this love of knives and daggers and swords is more rooted in my enjoyment of The Three Musketeers and other such swashbuckling adventures, where the use of the sword was related to an honorable fight.

D 1991op.