Results for category "Siege Weapon"

How Trabuco Rained Down Death In The Middle Ages

For centuries rulers had built castles in order to defend their land. They were nigh impregnable due to tall stone walls and moats surrounding them. For many years the only effective way to deal with a castle was to lay siege to it and starve out the castle occupants. However, when a Chinese invention made its arrival in Europe in the 1100s this all changed. The Trabuco, which was a siege engine, could lay waste to a castle and bring down its walls. Moats and castles became pointless and the course of history was forever altered.

Trabuco’s were also called Trebuchet in France. They work by having a counterweight at one side of a pole throw the other end straight up into the air. That end had a sling attached in which the projectile was placed. The counterweights were typically about one ton in weight. Early Trabuco could fire a 200-pound boulder up to almost 1000 feet. Later Trabuco could fire boulder ten times larger at an even farther distance. Castle walls stood no chance against this siege weapon according to Not much could be done about them by the enemy, either, as they were well out of range of returning arrow fire. For a while they tried building castle walls more thickly but this proved far too cost-prohibitive.


After the Trabuco was improved upon by Europeans these modifications made their way back east to China. It was the Mongols who brought them back who used them to take over that country. Armies stopped relying on them only when gunpowder was introduced into warfare which is another Chinese invention. They created gunpowder in the 800s and it arrived in Europe near the end of the 1200s. Originally the Chinese had created it to be used as medicine but once people saw how effective it could be used in cannons it was introduced to warfare.

Some people still build Trabuco today. There was a Mythbusters episode which had a segment on it, for example. They tried to build the perfect Trabuco by making some modifications to the original design, applying 21st-century know-how. One of the last uses of a Trabuco in a war setting occurred when Spanish soldiers led by Hernan Cortes were trying to defeat the Aztecs. Purportedly the first time it was fired the stone fell straight down crushing the machine and men who were near it.