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Medieval Weapons

Updated on May 14, 2014

All About Medieval Weapons

Starting with the major Medieval siege weapons and moving through the other common weapons of that historical era. Eventually this page will be a large resource for everything involving Medieval Weapons. Whether you're into the classic swords of the European era, hard core weapons like the halberd designed to pull mounted riders off their horses, or the hard core historical accuracy of farmer's weapons turned deadly (thank you, Japan) - there is plenty here for you all. Enjoy this lens which will continue to have more information on Medieval weapons added over time or if you want a full resource check out this Illustrated Medieval Weapons Guide.

Scottish Medieval Weapons

Medieval Scottish weapons reflect the times

Scottish Medieval weapons varied from clan to clan, but there was a specific group of medieval weapons that seemed to appear regardless of the clan, whether lowlander or highlander.

Every nation in the Middle Ages had their specific weapons, and the Scots were no different. From the Schiltron Pike to the ever famous Scottish Claymore, the Scottish people had a wide variety of Scottish Medieval weapons that were the equivalent of any found anywhere else in Europe.

Replicas of these weapons remain among the most popular among collectors who want to buy medieval weapons. It is important to note, however, that in historical times common weapons like a cutting ax, a wooden pitchfork, scythe, wood staff, and dagger were much more common than seeing professionally made bows or the all famous claymore, which was generally reserved for nobles and Highlander clan chieftains.

Medieval Weapons Books from Amazon

There are plenty of amazing books about Medieval weapons and the Medieval time period. While it can be hard to find the best ones, this is a great selection on some of the best books from Amazon.

Medieval Weapons: An Illustrated History of Their Impact (Weapons and Warfare)
Medieval Weapons: An Illustrated History of Their Impact (Weapons and Warfare)

This is one of the best single books for people fascinated by various siege weapons, medieval warfare, and more. This illustrated guide means there are plenty of medieval weapons pictures, as well - highly recommend!

Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 3: Build Siege Weapons of the Dark Ages
Mini Weapons of Mass Destruction 3: Build Siege Weapons of the Dark Ages

Another great resource for researching medieval siege weapons: including even how they were built!

Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor
Weapon: A Visual History of Arms and Armor

A great general book that goes a little past just medieval times, but it's interesting to see the development over time.

Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide To Siege Weapons And Tactics
Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide To Siege Weapons And Tactics

This is only about the siege weapons, so if you want to see the old way of bringing down a city, here it is!


Looking at Medieval Crossbow Designs

Many different crossbows were used in medieval times

There seems to be a renewed interest in recent years with a hobby of creating your own crossbows. While making a homemade crossbow can be fun, it is always important to remember the crossbow is still a weapon and should be treated carefully and with respect. During medieval times the crossbow was one of the most feared weapons in war. It could pierce through the strongest armor, and did massive damage upon impact. In fact, the crossbow was so feared that the Pope made its use of illegal. Obviously not many armies decided to follow but this does show just how much of an impact this weapon could have on the battlefield.

Medieval crossbow designs vary greatly from one to another depending upon the exact time. Then the army that use them. For example, in some of the earliest medieval times but crossbow will be a fairly simple would and trigger designs and each crossbow men could reload their own weapon by using their feet and their body weight to pull the rope back in the place. The soldiers could fire 4 to 6 rounds per minute with relative ease. On the other hand, more advanced models towards the end of the era were metal and often involved intricate trigger devices, cranks, and require two people to load and fire. If you're looking to make your own homemade crossbow is obviously much easier to shoot one of the earlier designs for one of the later designs.

If you're looking for tutorials on building homemade crossbows, the good news is that there are times of them you can find online. These include both pictorial descriptions as well as video tutorials. Many people begin with the very basic and most simple designs and then move their way up to actual designs you may have found in medieval Europe. Whatever your decision, there are many great designs to choose from.

The Trebuchet: King of the Siege Weapons

Medieval trebuchets were the ultimate siege weapons

A trebuchet is a Medieval siege engine that was used to either smash castle walls or to throw projectiles over them. It is sometimes called a "counterweight trebuchet" in order to distinguish it from an earlier weapon that has come to be called the "traction trebuchet." The counter weight trebuchet is the one that most people think of when they imagine a trebuchet.

The counterweight trebuchet appeared in both Christian and Muslim lands around the Mediterranean in the 12th century. It could fling 300 pound projectiles at high speeds into enemy fortifications. This was usually stones of flaming pitch, but the Mongols introduced biological warfare by slinging the corpses of plague victims over the city walls.

Trebuchets were invented in China in about the 4th century BC, came to Europe in the 6th century AD, and did not become obsolete until the 16th century, well after the introduction of gunpowder. Trebuchets were far more accurate than other medieval catapults, and a good trebuchet design could infuse a military family with massive political power.

Some Great Middle Ages Video from YouTube

Part 1 of 9, welcome to a brief history of England, starting with Henry III.

The Secrets of Greek Fire

Greek Fire was the earliest naval napalm

Greek Fire, also known as Byzantine Fire, Greek Byzantine Fire, and Sea Fire, was a fearsome naval weapon mastered by the Greeks and the Byzantines during early Medieval times.

The Byzantines usually used it in naval battles to great effect, as their opponents ships couldn't escape it since the Greek fire would continue to burn, even on water. By what few surviving hstorical accounts we have left, Greek fire could continue burning even on water and was largely responsible for many Byzantine military victories, extending the life of the empire several centuries.

What is really interesting is that accounts have the fire being transmitted in streams of fire from enemey ships, like a flame thrower. The exact formula was a secret and remains a mystery to this day. Scientists can only guess as to what it was, and how it was shot in a flame thrower form.

There are varying accounts of where Greek fire came from, though many believe that it was invented in Constantinople by chemists who studied the early sciences. Accounts say putting water on the fire only spread it more widely.

While Greek fire gave the Byzantines a frightening weapon, they fell because they were surrounde on all sides, and eventually just ran out of population. This Greek fire was used against barbarians, Muslim invaders, and the Rus--not to mention he Venetians when the Fourth Crusade decided to sack Constantinople instead of continuing on.

The major down side was that Greek fire was very hard to control, and it would often accidentally set Byzantine ships ablaze, and an occasional accident could result in huge casaulties in their own armies.

The effectiveness of Greek fire was obvious, but even so it had its own limitations. For example, because of its short range it was far more effective as a weapon in narrow straights or canals than in the open seas.

From what we know, whatever the ingredients were, they were heated in a cauldron, and then pumped out of the ship in a fiery stream. Some degree of this was adapted for city use, and used in early "grenade" like form: terrifying calvalry and soldiers alike.

Great Short on Greek Fire

Kept the Byzantine Empire alive centuries longer than it otherwise would have lasted.

The Battering Ram

Medieval battering rams: simple, but efficient

Most of the early weapons and defenses were based on practicality. Someone throwing rocks? Pick up something to block, and there's a shield. Does an enemy pull a knife? A large knife gives more reach, and eventually leads to a sword.

The earliest siege weapon was well prior to Medieval times, but knowing history is the best way to trace everything. The initial siege weapon was a battering ram. While the earliest ones were simply large logs, as the city defenses improved, a battering ram changed to the point where the Medieval version looked a lot different than a log with handles.

The picture here is what a Medieval battering ram would look like, protected from burning oil and arrows, and set to use momentum to increase the impact and damage a single siege weapon can deliver. This also allowed soldiers protecton from arrows.

Medieval Movies and Games from Amazon

For all the Medieval fans of middle ages based video games and movies!

Medieval II Total War - PC
Medieval II Total War - PC

Medieval II Total War is one of the finest war strategy games out there, and heads and shoulders above all the others.

Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms Expansion Pack - PC
Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms Expansion Pack - PC

Medieval II Total War: Kingdoms Expansion Pack further builds on this amazing Middle Ages war strategy game.

Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings - PC
Age of Empires 2: Age of Kings - PC

Still one of the most popular strategy war games out there for PC.

Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (Four-Disc Special Edition)
Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (Four-Disc Special Edition)

Kingdom of Heaven was an absolutely astounding movie, and did a great job of showing how politics and greed infiltrated both faiths while telling an amazing story.


FREEDOM! One of the best war movies ever made.


Catapult--the next evolution

A distance siege weapon

The catapult is another siege weapon that started well before Medieval times, but continued to see usage throughout that time period. These catapults were later replaced by much more complex versions known as trebuchets--which are still a form of a catapult, simply far more advanced and effective.

The idea of a catapult is simple: to throw an object through the air at a target. This object can be anything from a large pot of flammable oil (favored by the Romans) to plague infested bodies (favored by the Mongols) to giant stones to take down a wall (Europe). A catapult is a giant version of early projectile weapons, such as slings and sling shots.

The exact date of a catapult as a siege weapon is hard to figure out, though historians agree that it was used by the AD 300s. Phillp of Macedonia, father of Alexaner the Great, was known to have used various siege weapons, including the catapult.

Other siege weapons based on the basic principles of the catapult include ballistas, trebuchets, and mangonels. Trebuchets had the greatest range and effectiveness of all of these, and struck fear into opposing armies. The specific designs of trebuchets were closely guarded secrets.

In fact, there are stories of one German military family that remained nobles despite five changes in the kingdom leader, because their trebuchets were so effective that the new king wanted their assistance and would grant them life and title rather than risk losing their military advantage.

While the trebuchet is definitely advanced enough to warrant its own place, its evolution started with the common catapult.

It's really a trebuchet, but . . .

This is more of a trebuchet than a catapult, but it's a catapult launching a car, which makes it so darn cool...

Mangonels - the Trebuchet's Pre-Cursor

Between the catapult and the trebuchet

A mangonel is a type of catapult like siege weapon that was used in the Medieval period to throw projectiles. A mangonel was used specifically to throw projectiles at castle walls, and it threw projectiles at a low trajectory.

The mangonel was still slightly more accurate than the trebuchets that followed, but they had far less distance, and trebuchets could hurl oil, stones, fire, or diseased bodies over a city wall.

History shows that some armies would hurl giant bee hives over city walls, which made for a very unhappy population.

The mangonels were considered a stepping stone between catapults and trebuchets, and were also good for open field battles. The Romans were the earliest to use a specific mangonel-like design.

Medieval Books For Further Reading:

Books for learning about Medieval times, often misspelled and referred to as "Midevil times."

Catapult: A History (Weapons in History)
Catapult: A History (Weapons in History)

Ah, the catapult, one of the most consistent siege weapons in all of military history.

Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Siege Weapons and Tactics
Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Siege Weapons and Tactics

A great illustrated book of siege weapons from "Mid Evil" times.

Arms & Armor of the Medieval Knight: An Illustrated History of Weaponry in the Middle Ages
Arms & Armor of the Medieval Knight: An Illustrated History of Weaponry in the Middle Ages

All you ever wanted to know about the Code of Knighthood and Honor among Medieval Knights.

Records of the Medieval Sword
Records of the Medieval Sword

The sword has always been one of the most used weapons of all time, and the Medieval times were no exception.

A Knight and His Weapons
A Knight and His Weapons

More great reading about knights and Midevil times.


Looking for more Medieval History?

Making a list of links to find all the information you could ever want.

Medieval stuff on eBay

For the collectors

Medieval Enthusiasts: Leave Your Comments

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    • Mr Criminology profile image

      Bigwas 4 years ago from Philippines

      most of the medieval weapons above originated from Europe.

    • CuAllaidh profile image

      Jeff Johnston 5 years ago from Alberta Canada

      Nice, as an SCA member I love medieval weaponry :D.

    • mannasugar profile image

      mannasugar 6 years ago

      hey, where can I get one of those "Mace" weapons, I need it for umm, a uh, demolition job or I mean I need to knock down a Lens....

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Awesome Lens, hey if you like medieval armor like me, you should check out medieval costumes and gifts, they are really affordable, just sharing some friendly information. Keep up the good posts! :)

    • profile image

      RedSkyTrader 8 years ago

      like the blog thanks for sharing. I am new to squidoo but have a few blogs myself about medieval themes...

    • oneskms profile image

      oneskms 9 years ago

      Thanks for the very informative lens. 5*

    • triathlontraini1 profile image

      triathlontraini1 9 years ago

      I've always been fascinated with that period in our history. Thanks for the interesting lens. :)

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      Allan R. Wallace 9 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      For some reason, probably family history, large edged weapons like axes and the claymore give me a sense of well being.