Mangonel

From Academic Kids

fr:Mangonneau A mangonel was a type of medieval catapult or siege engine used in the medieval period to throw projectiles at a castle's walls. While not particularly accurate, mangonels were capable of firing projectiles up to 400 meters, or 1,300 feet, substantially farther than a trebuchet (which was introduced later, shortly before the discovery and widespread usage of gunpowder). The mangonel threw projectiles on a lower trajectory than the trebuchet.

Origins

The mangonel as described here is a medieval version of an Ancient Roman catapult nicknamed the onager. This was a single-arm torsion catapult that held the projectile in a sling. A similar and perhaps older device was nicknamed the scorpion because of its resemblance to a scorpion's tail and sting.

The onager's power is derived from twisted sinew ropes, similar to those in a ballista, but an onager has only one arm while the ballista has two. The Romans greatly improved the onager's maneuverability by adding wheels to its base. The wheels and the onager's light weight made it easy to move.

The word mangonel is derived from the Greek word magganon which means "an engine of war", but was first used in medieval accounts of sieges. The exact type of engine described by the name mangonel is still a matter of doubt.

Use in battle

Mangonels fired heavy projectiles from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of the firing arm. In combat, mangonels hurled rocks, burning objects (or vessels filled with flammable materials which created a fireball on impact), or anything else readily available to the attacking force. One of the more unusual types of projectile was that of dead, and often partially decomposed, carcasses of animals or people. These were used to intimidate the defending force, lower their morale, and often to spread disease amongst the besieged. This tactic often proved effective as the short supply of food, which was often of low quality or rotting, combined with the cramped living space of the defenders, poor hygiene, and infestations of vermin (which made convenient vectors for disease) made the ideal scenario for the spread of disease.

In addition to laying waste to enemy castles during sieges, the mangonel was also eventually adapted to provide cover for troops on the battlefield. This tactic was first devised and employed by Alexander the Great.

Despite its lack of accuracy, the versatility and maneuverability of the mangonel ensured that it was the most popular siege catapult used during the medieval period.

References

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