During the early times, when guns and missiles were not invented, catapults were used as a machine to throw rocks or spears towards enemies at a distance. The catapults had great force and so the objects traveled quite far. Gradually, with the improvements of new technologies, their uses declined. Today simple catapults with small stones are used by youngsters to catch birds.
Fact 1 What Is A Catapult?
A catapult is a device that was used in earlier times to shoot projectiles without using explosive gadgets. Catapults had been used from early for various purposes but they had proved effective during wars. The word originates from the Latin word “catapulta” which owes its origin to the Greek word “katapeltes” meaning to hurl or toss. It is believed that catapults were first used by the Greeks who invented them.
Fact 2 Gradual Developments Of Catapults
At the beginning, catapults were used to throw missiles during wars and this has been mentioned in the early Chinese writings. They were more like a big crossbow. Later, the ones that were mounted on a single arm and used to hurl boiling oil, stones etc were bigger in size. Catapults were used in both ways to attack as well as to defend oneself from enemies. They were more useful in siege warfare. However, as artillery became popular they were less used.
Fact 3 Types Of Catapults
There were 3 variations of catapults namely the Ballista, Trebuchet and Mangonel. Each one had distinct features like:
1. Ballista is like a crossbow but larger in size. It was invented to increase the power and range of the crossbow. Two wooden arms were attached to a rope which was generally made of animal sinew or human hair. When the deadly arrows were shot, they accurately hit the enemies. The Springald was similar to Ballista but smaller in size and used in closed areas like castles etc.
2. Trebuchet was an improved version of the early catapult and had maximum force. It is believed that the Chinese created the Trebuchet around 300 B.C. and stones were used to hurl at castle walls to demolish them. The device had two arms, the long was balanced on a fulcrum while the shorter arm was attached to a counterbalance. The Trebuchet was used in Europe around 500 A.D. This catapult was extremely forceful and could be used to attack enemies from a greater distance as compared to the earlier versions of catapults.
3. Mangonel comes from the Latin word meaning engine of war. The Romans invented this device around 400 B.C. It consisted of a long wooden arm with a bucket and rope attached to it. It fired projectiles in an arc over the head.
Fact 4 Objects Used To Shoot At The Enemies
All types of catapults used various objects during warfare according to the situation. Like when the Ballista was used, people used objects which included sharp wood poles and darts mainly.
However, during the time when Trebuchets were used, other objects were utilized like stones, pots of Greek fire, burning tar, quick lime, dung, dead animals, burning sand, mutilated dead bodies and body parts. Diseased bodies were also used which was the beginning of the first biological warfare.
The same objects were used in attacking enemies during the time Mangonel was in use. This catapult was used mostly as an antipersonnel weapon. Other objects were also used like stones and poisonous arrows.
However, catapults are not used anymore in wars due to the invention of sophisticated and more powerful artillery and missiles that work more efficiently and at greater speed to fight enemies.