The Trabuco, The “Big Bertha” Of Ancient Times

The Trabuco, or trebuchet, was a war machine used from ancient times until the rise of gun powder. It was used as a siege engine and changed the course of history through its use.

It was believed to have been developed in ancient China around the 4th century BC, where catapults were not used according to It moved westward with the Avars until it reached the Eastern Mediterranean, where it was put to use during the Crusades in battles such as Tyre and Acre. It then moved north with the returning soldiers and found great success through kings such as Philip II, of France and Edward I, of England. These rulers called there weapons such names as, “God’s Stone-Thrower”, “Bad Neighbor” and “Warwolf”. This was the same thing that countries did centuries later when they named their huge artillery in a fond nature. The introduction of gun powder seemed to bring an end to the use Trabuco and it was not in service past the 15th century, except as an oddity.


Hand held devices were used by the Greeks before 1000 AD, and whole divisions would have been supplied with a weapon, just as a modern day foot soldier has his own gun. The counterweight trabuco was first seen in the 12th century, in Asia Minor, and then in Byzantium. The counterweight variety was not used in China until about the same time, as manpower was used instead of a weight box prior to this development. The amount of lumber that was needed to assemble one of these machines was so large that it made bringing an assembled machine with a marching army impossible. Instead just the key parts were brought and local lumber was sourced when the army got to its final position.

Not only were massive rocks thrown at the enemy, but also more disagreeable things such as manure, and even dead bodies. In this way germ warfare was developed by the spread of disease. Flaming projectiles were also hurled over town walls and in this way damage and chaos could be inflicted inside of the town itself during a siege.

Many battles and sieges would have had very different outcomes if this weapon of war had not been developed and used by humans. Trabuco was the super-weapon of its day and is still a fascinating piece of artillery to watch in action.

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