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Who Invented The Catapult?

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War and conflict has been a way of life for the human ever since he became a social creature. There is some innate desire of humans to dominate others or possess something they have. Thus, walled cities were developed in order to protect the weak and ward off marauders. Typical of the human spirit where there is a challenge, a way is sought to overcome that challenge. So it was with the obstacles of walled cities. Besieging a fortress may be a long process and ties down soldiers and resources.

Stone hurling catapultStone hurling catapult, 400 BCE. © Smith College Museum.

First record of the catapult

Therefore, siege engines were developed. One of these engines would have been the catapult. Designed to hurl missiles (or “greek fire”) over the walls in both directions. So who and where was it developed? As you know Joshua did not have any while he was marching around Jericho so their development may well have been after that. The first recordings of Catapults are from Greece about 400 years before the Christian era. These were initially a type of crossbow where the structure enabled greater power and therefore greater range than a hand held bow.

 Origins of the catapult word

The word Catapult comes from the Greek word “Kata” (downward) and “Pultos” (Shield) so it was originally designed as a shield piercer or a way to negate whatever barriers the enemy chose to hide behind. Initially as mentioned before they were used for arrows or bolts and the power was generated initially spring like qualities but later it was found that torsion was more effective. Alexander The Great was the first recorded user of battlefield catapults using them to provide cover.

The Romans and their ballistae

The Romans were using them as well by this time and they were called “Ballistae”. The first Roman ones were crossbow type machines but soon became howitzer type weapons throwing rocks and burning pitch in a ballistic trajectory. The Romans also adapted them for use on the sea. Catapults were developed and were used as siege weapons against the walled cities of medieval times. The most common of these were the Mangonel and the Trebuchet.

Machines used for war: The invention of the tank.