Most likely, you're aware that before it was a chemical to spray into the face of an evil-doer, "mace" was the name of a lethal medieval weapon. Unfortunately, today it's considered a bit of overkill to fight off a mugger or thief off with a blunt, heavy ball on a chain with sharp spikes. More's the pity. See if you have heard of these devices and other terminology of that era. (Special Note: If you have heard of more than a few of these, we suspect you are a medieval scholar or possibly a psychopath.)
10: The Trebuchet
Although catapults had been around since ancient Greece, this was the sleek, modern, state-of-the-art version. It used gravity or traction, rather than tension or torsion, to propel the throwing arm. Among the projectiles loaded into the trebuchet: The carcasses of diseased animals and those who had perished from the Black Death.
9: The Tiltyard
Knights of the era were born for war, but occasionally there were very annoying stretches of peace in the kingdom. What was a fighting man to do? Aha! Jousting! Otherwise idle knights often fought for the honor of a nobleman's wife, with the winner's reward being 1. not dying, and 2. hanky panky with the wife. These contests became so popular that many castles built open courtyards called "tityards" just for these battles.
8: The Strappado
This was a nasty little torture device. An individual's hands were bound behind the back, then he or she was suspended by the wrists. You can imagine that this went beyond discomfort, causing a person's arms to be pulled up, dislocating the shoulders. It's difficult to imagine anyone not confessing to anything from eating meat on a Friday to harboring aliens from one of those bright lights in the sky.
7: The Halberd
This was a sort of spear fitted with an axe head. It had a broad, short axe blade on a 6-foot pole with a spear point at the top with a back spike. The halberd was considered the weapon of choice when a person found himself facing a knight on horseback. You could say that it was a labor-saving device, too, in that it could remove an opponent's arm or leg with just one well placed stroke.
6: The Polearm
Let's say that you want to be a warrior and all, but you're not crazy about all that up close, hand-to-hand combat. Well, the polearm was made for you. It was a razor-sharp blade mounted on a pole that was sometimes as much as 14 feet long. Soldiers were trained in various techniques for the most effective use of a polearm, including the "poke," a term which many of you will recognize as still surviving today, thanks to Facebook.
5: The Pear of Anguish
It would seem that before income taxes were invented, the main way that a government could oppress its citizens was through torture. And they sure got creative about it. The sublimely named "Pear of Anguish" was a pear-shaped device inserted into the mouth or front or back lower orifice of the unfortunate star of the show. Then it was slowly expanded internally to cause intense pain, great injury … but rarely death. So maybe this was considered a humane torture?
4: The Tirocinium
Here's a medieval dilemma: How do you get new blood (literally) into these popular jousting tournaments without getting the novices slaughtered by more experienced combatants? (This was a dilemma, born not from pity for the newbies, but from the need for competitive events to please the elite audiences.) The solution was a sort of Little League jousting circuit. And that was called the Tirocinium.
3: The Mangonel
This was yet another type of catapult, this one with more of a sniper approach to flinging at the target castle. Not in the sense of anonymity, but for long-distance accuracy. A mangonel was capable of firing projectiles (including stones, fire, dung, body parts, darts and whole carcasses) up to 1,300 feet. This weapon might be thought of as the medieval equivalent of what we would call today a "dirty bomb."
This was a stronger-than-usual kind of ale, named for the German words roughly translated to "good beer." Perhaps because very few could read to pass the time, and religious taboos curtailed sex outside of wedlock, it is estimated that consumption of alcohol drinks averaged one gallon per person per day.
1: The Head Crusher
If medieval inventors had devoted the time to science that they devoted to devising torture devices, they may well have sent a rocket to the moon. In this perfectly named pinnacle of pain, an iron helmet was placed on the head and slowly squeezed tighter. This caused the teeth to implode into their sockets and smashed the surrounding jaw bones. Then the eyes squirted from their sockets and finally, brain matter squirted from the ears. Gee, is it lunch time already?