Learn More About Catapults

Catapults get ready for action

The catapult is a machine used to hurl projectiles over a great distance without the use of explosives.

The earliest catapults date back to ancient Greece -- their mechanism was closely tied to the crossbow. The word "catapult" comes from the Greek kata meaning "downward," and pultos, meaning "shield." Its literal translation was "shield piercer."

First described by the historian Diodorus in the first century B.C., catapults evolved into arrow-shooting machines. But catapults as we know them were often-used in medieval times, as they were effective in breaking down a castle's fortified walls. They were also the weapon of choice in early biological warfare -- corpses and diseased carcasses were hurled over the walls of the enemy.

There were different types of catapults used in the Middle Ages. They included:

- Ballista -- Like a crossbow, it worked by using tension

- Trebuchet -- It included a lever and sling, and could hurl up to 200 pounds nearly a mile

- Mangonel -- Projectiles were launched from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of a giant arm

These machines must be composed of springs, cords, rubber, dead weights or other mechanical means to create and store energy to blast the pumpkins onto the field. They can have motorized winches and/or cranking devices to get them moving.


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