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View Full Version : Medieval siege. Would this work?



efreysson
06-10-2014, 08:15 PM
My fantasy WIP ends with an army storming the walls of a city. I'm writing the second assault and I got the idea that the attackers might wheel something rather like oversized airport ladders (http://www.google.is/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.fi les.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F02%2Ftonelli-2-paci.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.com%2F 2012%2F03%2F02%2Fadrian-paci-centro-di-permanenza-temporanea%2F&h=1181&w=2101&tbnid=AnGNQ2XnzeEmNM%3A&zoom=1&docid=tIm5da-ffmPdAM&ei=6CuXU6nmFc7_PIWSgeAD&tbm=isch&ved=0CDEQMygJMAk&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=512&page=1&start=0&ndsp=41) up against the wall. That way they could charge up shields raised and side by side, rather than climb straight up under fire. Did something like this ever happen? I want to make the different assaults different but I also want to be realistic.

Oh and before anyone mentions siege towers, I have those too. Like I said, I just want variety.

Bolero
06-10-2014, 08:23 PM
I don't know if it ever happened or not.

Picturing it in use - they are relatively unstable - as in narrow wheel base for the height, they are probably travelling over rough ground, they wouldn't offer much shelter to the people pushing them - not as much as a siege tower, and when they reach the wall, then the attackers have to run up them. That is slower than a siege tower with people already on a platform that matches the height of the top of the castle wall.
It is also quite complex carpentry to build a flight of steps, compared to a frame with a platform on it as in a siege tower. You preferably want the steps nice and even so people don't trip while running up them. I could also see the defenders managing a lucky shot of chucking a "thing" in at the top of the steps which would then roll down. The thing could be big rock, ball stuff that was set on fire.....

thothguard51
06-10-2014, 08:25 PM
Does your walled city have a ditch in front of the walls. If not, shame on your city's citizens/leaders... lol.

You can use anything you want, provided you have a way to avoid arrows...

Hoplite
06-10-2014, 08:26 PM
My fantasy WIP ends with an army storming the walls of a city. I'm writing the second assault and I got the idea that the attackers might wheel something rather like oversized airport ladders (http://www.google.is/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.fi les.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F02%2Ftonelli-2-paci.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.com%2F 2012%2F03%2F02%2Fadrian-paci-centro-di-permanenza-temporanea%2F&h=1181&w=2101&tbnid=AnGNQ2XnzeEmNM%3A&zoom=1&docid=tIm5da-ffmPdAM&ei=6CuXU6nmFc7_PIWSgeAD&tbm=isch&ved=0CDEQMygJMAk&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=512&page=1&start=0&ndsp=41) up against the wall. That way they could charge up shields raised and side by side, rather than climb straight up under fire. Did something like this ever happen? I want to make the different assaults different but I also want to be realistic.

Oh and before anyone mentions siege towers, I have those too. Like I said, I just want variety.

I was about to say, "Sounds like a siege tower." The idea seems plausible: it's a siege "ramp" with no side walls for protection. I've never heard of such a thing being used, but there might be variants of siege towers similar to what you're considering. Keep a look out.

On another note you mention you're looking for variety in your siege assaults. Some of the more colorful ones I've heard come from the Roman legions:

1) They built an earth-ramp to storm the walls
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Masada

2) They built a wall around the city
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_Alesia

King Neptune
06-10-2014, 10:06 PM
My fantasy WIP ends with an army storming the walls of a city. I'm writing the second assault and I got the idea that the attackers might wheel something rather like oversized airport ladders (http://www.google.is/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.fi les.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F02%2Ftonelli-2-paci.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.com%2F 2012%2F03%2F02%2Fadrian-paci-centro-di-permanenza-temporanea%2F&h=1181&w=2101&tbnid=AnGNQ2XnzeEmNM%3A&zoom=1&docid=tIm5da-ffmPdAM&ei=6CuXU6nmFc7_PIWSgeAD&tbm=isch&ved=0CDEQMygJMAk&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=512&page=1&start=0&ndsp=41) up against the wall. That way they could charge up shields raised and side by side, rather than climb straight up under fire. Did something like this ever happen? I want to make the different assaults different but I also want to be realistic.

Oh and before anyone mentions siege towers, I have those too. Like I said, I just want variety.

Yes, I don't remember what they were called, but even in ancient times there were towers that enclosed ladders or stairs that had wheels and exterior covering.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_tower

You might try googling "siege engine" to get information about the kinds of siege engines that were available.

Nivarion
06-10-2014, 11:38 PM
I've never seen such a thing in all the medieval research I've done, but I've also focused on northern Europe. It's possible that someone built something like that though.

The concept seems straightforward and achievable enough, there's nothing immediately wrong with it. Bolero might have the right of it though, they could be more expensive to build than a siege tower due to complexity.

WeaselFire
06-10-2014, 11:47 PM
I'm writing the second assault and I got the idea that the attackers might wheel something rather like oversized airport ladders (http://www.google.is/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.fi les.wordpress.com%2F2012%2F02%2Ftonelli-2-paci.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwelldesignedandbuilt.com%2F 2012%2F03%2F02%2Fadrian-paci-centro-di-permanenza-temporanea%2F&h=1181&w=2101&tbnid=AnGNQ2XnzeEmNM%3A&zoom=1&docid=tIm5da-ffmPdAM&ei=6CuXU6nmFc7_PIWSgeAD&tbm=isch&ved=0CDEQMygJMAk&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=512&page=1&start=0&ndsp=41) up against the wall.
Some of the variations on siege towers were exactly this. Romans usually built an earthen ramp, which was very effective at Masada. Stairs such as this were often assembled at the wall rather than wheeled in. So were many siege towers. Occupants didn't exactly have unlimited supply of things to throw at siege armies anyway.

Jeff

Bolero
06-11-2014, 12:22 PM
Interesting trade-offs.
While defenders don't have an unlimited supply of missiles, a good traditional one is to wait until something in wood is nearly built, and send fire arrows, possibly preceded by throwing flammable oil over it. Or sallying out to burn it down.
If you are able to make it movable then you can build out of range and trundle it in.

Earth ramp - doesn't burn, you can't tip it over, but you have to build it in range of the walls.
This is where, as a defender, you need a castle built with arrow slits and the like so you can fire out without exposing yourself to return fire.

You'd probably want to build the earth ramp with plenty of rocks in, or with the soil packed into containers such as big baskets (like gambions), at least at both edges. Vulnerable to heavy rain washing it away if it is just loose soil. Not a problem for the Romans at Masada.

Adamantine
06-11-2014, 05:32 PM
I read up a lot on military history, particularly the middle ages. Not an expert by any means. What I have read about mostly were siege towers which were essentially stairs inside a wheeled timber frame which was sheathed in green wood and water soaked leather when practical. What you are describing sounds like one of those, but unfinished. These things are really heavy! I mean, really really heavy! Material intensive and takes labor to build. The average siege force would not make a lot of them.

Scaling ladders, which were easier to make and used less materials were a bit more common. The besieging force would put the siege towers into place, than once the walls have been breached, would use scaling ladders to add additional troops to the wall in a hurry. Ropes with grapnels were not as practical for an armored troop because of the weight of armor, but they could be used.

Bolero
06-11-2014, 05:38 PM
Adamantine - from your reading - how professional were the forces at different periods?

My impressions are:

So Romans - heavily organised, standard solution for everything, big trained band of people who can snap into plan A, B or C as required.

Medieval - very varied from levy of tenants through to professional troops of mercenaries, some of whom specialised in siege work.

Is that close to right? Any comment on anyone else?

Adamantine
06-11-2014, 07:32 PM
Bolero, that would be very correct. medieval levy troops consist of everything from the kitchen staff to a trained man-at-arms and was frequently lead by a noble whose training leaned towards excellent but was just as often not so good.

The roman military was a trained force that would be drilled to respond instantly to orders, as you said. Even the trained mercenaries of the middle ages would have had trouble with a Roman legion, if their equipment were of the same types. The training Romans were given was much more intensive than the training given by mercenary units.

Then you have the esprit de corps that the Roman units had, versus the same for mercenary units and levies. Levies would not have the training, but they would likely be very motivated if the attack was on their home soil. Not so much if they were far from home. Mercenaries would be in it for the money, and not so willing to back a cause, definitely not a last stand thing. Romans would have been the most solid, since they were fighting for Rome, at least in the early periods of Rome.

Towards the end of the Roman empire, the ranks of the legions had become filled with conscripts and mercenaries, so they were not as solid as the early legions at the time of Julius Gaius Caesar were.

I should, btw, contrast the Greek phalanxes in here. They were also trained warriors depending on the city state that they were from. The famous Spartans come to mind, but there were also the Myrmidons. These troops were trained and well equipped for their time and tech levels. However, the different city states had different concepts of training levels and different notions of how to keep their cities warded.

Egypt had its caste system, where you gave your utmost effort to your caste, but there did seem to be some movements in the society. Not rigid, but not wide open. The training again was not one way for the entire Upper or Lower Kingdom, but depended on the abilities of the - let me use the term - general as to training status.

Professional national armies as we know them did not show up until around the late 1600's. Up until then, especially in England, it was household troops, mercenaries and levies which made up the balance of defenders. Even the famed Musketeers were actually household troops attached to a nobleman who were given the honor of defending their crown.

Oh my. Look at this ramble! LOL Sorry, you hit the button here, and got more than you wanted.

Hoplite
06-11-2014, 09:58 PM
I should, btw, contrast the Greek phalanxes in here.

:hooray:


They were also trained warriors depending on the city state that they were from. The famous Spartans come to mind, but there were also the Myrmidons. These troops were trained and well equipped for their time and tech levels. However, the different city states had different concepts of training levels and different notions of how to keep their cities warded.

The Spartans eventually suffered a similar problem to the Roman Legions except they never bothered to fix it. They only let citizens join the army even though citizens were an extreme minority of the population. So they kept their elite fighting force, it just dwindled over time into nothing.

Hendo
06-11-2014, 10:02 PM
Like many people are saying, it's a simplified version of the siege tower. I'm assuming the reason nobody has heard of something like what you're describing is because it would take very little work throwing a few panels/boards on the front and sides to provide some rudimentary protection. Viola.. your rolling ladder is now a siege tower.

I know you say you have siege towers but having giant unprotected rolling ladders just doesn't sound practical to me. Maybe just go with regular ladders?

Bolero
06-11-2014, 10:34 PM
Oh my. Look at this ramble! LOL Sorry, you hit the button here, and got more than you wanted.

No, brilliant thank you. Very interesting.

Adamantine
06-11-2014, 11:04 PM
:hooray:

The Spartans eventually suffered a similar problem to the Roman Legions except they never bothered to fix it. They only let citizens join the army even though citizens were an extreme minority of the population. So they kept their elite fighting force, it just dwindled over time into nothing.

Very true. The citizens were vastly outnumbered by the helots, and eventually the army was down to nothing. There were numbers of city states in Greece, most of which accepted their people into their armies. One of the things to note, our concept of a warrior/soldier is different from theirs. The earlier concept of warrior encapsulated other abilities as well, such as farming, textile production, law codifying, etc. Theirs was a much more rounded life picture. The closest to our notion of soldiers were the Roman legions.

Adamantine
06-11-2014, 11:15 PM
Like many people are saying, it's a simplified version of the siege tower. I'm assuming the reason nobody has heard of something like what you're describing is because it would take very little work throwing a few panels/boards on the front and sides to provide some rudimentary protection. Viola.. your rolling ladder is now a siege tower.

I know you say you have siege towers but having giant unprotected rolling ladders just doesn't sound practical to me. Maybe just go with regular ladders?

Hendo, correct. The only reason why you would have them unprotected is because you ran out of materials, or were not ready when you had to put them in action such as a relieving force advancing on the keep. Otherwise, they would not be very useful.

Hoplite
06-11-2014, 11:37 PM
I want to make the different assaults different but I also want to be realistic.




I should, btw, contrast the Greek phalanxes in here

How could we forget to mention The Trojan Horse?! (Or the Trojan Rabbit)

Adamantine
06-11-2014, 11:49 PM
How could we forget to mention The Trojan Horse?! (Or the Trojan Rabbit)

LOL different context... I thought we were talking about assaults, not being really really sneaky! Tunneling, catapults, trebuchets, arbelasts, crossbows, etc. were all standard siege engine equipment (well ok, not so much equipment minded with tunneling and sappers, but you get the idea).

Sneaking in a small assault team to undo a postern gate in the middle of the night would happen, as would poisoning the well, burning out the stored food, stuff like that. The Trojan Horse, or Trojan Rabbit, was a different level of pure sneaky!

Adamantine
06-12-2014, 03:54 AM
Oh, yeah. One last thing, when I say stairs, what I mean is something that we would all consider to be a ladder, with a very narrow tread, not a stair like we are used to. The goal was to keep the siege tower as light as possible, so it would not sink in soft soil.

badwolf.usmc
06-12-2014, 04:50 AM
One thing I have not seen mentioned, unless I missed it, are mines. Often during a long siege, the attacking army would tunnel under the wall to either collapse it or just get inside the city.

Adamantine
06-12-2014, 04:58 AM
One thing I have not seen mentioned, unless I missed it, are mines. Often during a long siege, the attacking army would tunnel under the wall to either collapse it or just get inside the city.

Yup! tunneling with sappers where they tunnel under the city, then fire the supports to weaken the walls.

snafu1056
06-12-2014, 05:12 AM
http://www.grandhistorian.com/chinesesiegewarfare/index-english12122007.html

heres a good resource on Chinese seige machines if you want some inspiration. In the middle ages they were the cutting edge.

Mark G
06-26-2014, 04:02 AM
I have read a lot on the topic and watched a lot of documentaries, and haven't seen anything like a mobile ramp without coverage as you describe. The Roman approach at Masada was great - but it wasn't a mobile ramp. Coverage while climbing is important because you have a LONG climb. If you do that exposed - even with large shields - you'll be suffering losses on the way up.

Another thought - siege engines that roll up to the walls depend heavily on how solid/even the ground is under the path leading to the wall. If there's a moat or serious trenchwork, you're not wheeling something up to the wall. If the castle is built on high ground (as many in Europe are), then rolling a siege engine up isn't realistic either.
http://www.rentalsapart.com/blog/post/26/Castles-across-Europe
http://www.best-of-european-union.eu/2010/06/29/hohenzollern-castle-in-germany/

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-6SV_lOOyIMQ/UM-N-LFw3OI/AAAAAAAAAZw/yHOpwkEs9P4/s1600/01.jpg

The movie "Kingdom of Heaven (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0320661/)" has a great battle scene with siege towers.

Edit: I didn't study the Chinese siege machines :)
Seems Snafu's link has a page at http://www.grandhistorian.com/chinesesiegewarfare/index-english12122007.html with an illustration of a "mobile sky cart". It looks like it's technically a "ladder" and not a "ramp", but it's darn close to what you're asking for.