Battering ram

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Replica battering ram at Chteau des Baux, France

A battering ram is a weapon used from ancient times to break open fortification walls or doors.

In its simplest form, a battering ram is just a large, heavy log carried by several people and propelled with force against an obstacle, the momentum of the ram being sufficient to damage the target.

In a more sophisticed design, a battering ram was slung from a wheeled support frame by ropes or chains so that it could be much more massive and also more easily swung against its target. Sometimes the ram's attacking point would be reinforced with a metal head and vulnerable parts of the ram might be bound with metal bands. Many battering rams had protective roofs and side-screens covered in leather or other materials to prevent the ram being set on fire.

Some battering rams were not slung from ropes or chains but were instead supported by rollers. This gave the ram much greater travel so that it could achieve a greater speed before striking its target and was therefore more destructive. Such a ram, used by Alexander the Great, is described by the writer Vitruvius.

In castles, defenders attempted to foil battering rams by dropping obstacles in front of the ram just before it hit a wall, using grappling hooks to immobilize the log, setting the ram on fire, or sallying to attack the ram.

Variations on the battering ram included the drill, the mouse, and the pick. These were smaller than a ram and could be used in more limited spaces.

Battering rams are still used in various roles in modern times, sometimes mounted on vehicles. SWAT teams often use small two-man metal rams for opening locked doors.

Legendary battering ram usage:

  • Destruction of Jerusalem
  • Used throughout the Crusades
  • The fall of Rome

There exists a popular myth in Gloucester that the famous children's rhyme, Humpty Dumpty, is about a battering ram used in the siege of Gloucester in 1643, during the English Civil War. However the story is almost certainly untrue; during the siege, which lasted only one month, no battering rams were used, although numbers of cannon were. The idea seems to have originated in a spoof history essay by Professor David Daube written for The Oxford Magazine in 1956, which was widely believed despite obvious improbabilities (e.g. planning to cross River Severn by running the ram down a hill at speed, although the river is naturally about 30 m (100 feet) wide at this point).de:Rammbock ja:破城槌 pl:Taran sl:Oblegovalni oven


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