Siege Warfare in the Middle Ages



A picture showing a medieval siege in France in the 13th century


Question 1: An Introduction to Siege Warfare

The text in this quiz has been adapted from this website:



In the medieval period,  armies (those outside the castle) used a wide variety of siege engines including: scaling ladders; rams; siege and various types of catapults such as the , ballista, and trebuchet. Siege techniques also included mining (digging under the castle's walls).


Medieval fortifications became progressively stronger and more dangerous to attackers as illustrated by the increasing use of , through which people could be shot as they entered a castle. Arrow slits, concealed doors and deep water wells were also important to resisting a .


Designers of castles paid particular attention to defending entrances, protecting gates with drawbridges,  (iron grids) and barbicans. Wet skins of freshly slaughtered animals were draped over gates and other wooden structures to retard fire.  (encircling ditches filled with water) and other water defences were also vital to defenders.


Virtually all large cities had city walls. Great effort was expended to ensure a good water supply inside the city in case of . In some cases, long tunnels were constructed to carry water into the city. Complex systems of underground tunnels were used for storage and communications in some medieval cities.


Attackers would try to get over the walls using scaling ladders and siege towers called . Alternatively, they could try to get through the doors using a battering ram, or through the walls using heavy artillery. They might try tunnelling under the walls to gain access, but more often they would try to the walls to bring them down.


During a siege, one army typically attacked an enemy within a stronghold, either a castle or a fortified town. Castles were often located within towns; in fact, many towns grew up around existing castles; the castle became a sort of citadel within the fortified town.



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