Siege Books

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My Siege Engine building team has used several books while plotting our different machines. We own and have read or use the following books.

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Useful books:

Greek and Roman Artillery: Technical Treatises
This is the essential reference when attempting to construct many types of ancient greek artillery pieces. Unfortunately, half the text is in greek and the pictures attempting to explain the translation are several pages away from text being read. If you are willing to slog through it, however, it will reveal many clever designs and ideas. Team Tormentum is using ideas from this book while constructing Mista Ballista.

cover The Book of the Crossbow
This is my favorite reference book for catapults. Lots of old wood print carvings of trebuchets, catapults, ballistas, and other odd machines. Great old stories, and construction details as well. The list of reference books is quite extensive.

cover Catapult Design, Construction and Competition with The Projectile Throwing Engines of the Ancients
This is two books under one cover. The first part is about the machines involved in a hurling contest, where the contestants restricted themselves only to materials available hundreds of years ago. It includes detailed schematics of the winning machines built for this competition.
The second part is The Projectile Throwing Engines of the Ancients, and is a predecessor to The Book of the Crossbow.

If you would prefer, you can order this book directly from the publisher, instead of through and better support a small publisher.

cover Medieval Siege Weapons (1) Western Europe ADA 585-1385
See Below.
cover Medieval Siege Weapons: Byzantium, the Islamic World & India Ad 475-1526
These two books are pretty quick reading (50 pages each) and cover the basic history of trebuchets (mangonels, sling mangonels, traction mangonels) across the specified time periods. The text doesn't provide much in the way of construction details, but the history is fascinating anyway with quotes from ancient documents and records. Of great interest to any prospecting siege-engineer are the color centerfolds with detailed pictures of many types of trebuchets, springalds, ballista and related machinery. I recommend both.

Greek and Roman Artillery 399 BC-AD 363
If you have a copy of Eric Marsden's book and read the chapters on Ballista, and want a second opinion, this is a great little companion. After doing our best on Mista Ballista based on Marsden's numbers, this book came along and validated many ideas we came up with on our own when we needed to change things. You won't find plans in this book, but you will find ideas for ballista made later in history and learn some of the concepts engineers of the day were toying with.

cover WEAPONS: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C to 2000 A.D
This book is a little light on construction detail, but has lots of graphics from which ideas can be derived. Chapter 4 is the place to start for Catapults. I particularly like the trebuchet graphics and sling release mechanism they suggest.
Note that this covers a huge range of weapons, so there are only a couple pages related to trebuchets and mangonels.

cover Engineering in the Ancient World
I bought this book for the chapter on siege engines. This chapter mostly concerns itself with the Ballista, but it has has been quite useful. I also found discussion in the rest of the book about cranes and what-not to be interesting, and probably useful for siege craft as well.

Amusing books:

cover Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon
The story of two guys building a steel-flex ballista. A fun mix of history and story. It would have been nice to have a few more details of the machine they built, but that didn't seem to be the author's intent.

cover Castle
This book is geared toward kids, and construction of a castle to defend against catapults. Near the end of this book, there is a section on castle siege which is interesting. Catapults are mentioned only briefly.

cover Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
Two pages on siege engines, and how they damage other things, all in the statistics of the Dungeons and Dragons game. Not really useful for a modern builder, but I thought it was amusing.

Vaguely catapult like books:

coverVacuum Bazookas, Electric Rainbow Jelly, and 27 Other Saturday Science Projects
A fun book with a range of projects in them for doing with your kids. The title of this book served as inspiration for my own Vacuum Bazooka which has provided many hours of entertainment.

coverBackyard Ballistics
Ah, the joy of potato cannons! If you are looking to build a catapult with your kids then you would probably want to share these projects with your kids too.


cover Secrets of the Lost Empires II: Medieval Siege (2000)
This is one of the best videos an aspiring trebuchet builder can get. I highly recommend this one.

cover The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
Large trebuchets mounted on the walls of Minas Tirith hurling massive chunks of masonry upon hapless orcs below? You just can't go wrong with that! A little weak if you want to see actual trebuchets but who cares!

cover Gladiator
A fun movie that starts with lots of fun catapult scenes. Unfortunately, the accuracy of these beasts left a little to be desired.

Are these books not good enough for you? Try the Amazon search box;

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Last Modified: 05/10/09