SCA hosts class on medieval siege weapons
By PAMELA GRANT
In medieval times, people used a variety of catapults to fling various projectiles attheir enemies. Michael Call (known in the SCA as Morgan), representing the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA), hosted a class focusing on the history and use of various medieval siege weapons.
The two-hour class on Wednesday evening was part of the SCA’s monthly medieval classes held every third Wednesday in the Copperas Cove Public Library meeting room. The event was free and open to the public. Call’s lesson featured catapults with focus on the trebuchet, mangonel, and ballista. Call emphasizedthe pros and cons of the four kinds of catapults which are tension, torsion, traction, and gravity. For example, some of the older traction catapults used people to pull the ropes needed to fire the weapon which was unreliable. Sometimes people would pull harder than other times due to exhaustion, injury, or laziness. Later, they switched out the men for stone weights to increase accuracy and reliability.
To demonstrate the potential accuracy of the weapons, Call cited a battle in Italy in 1200 AD in which 12 different crews operating trebuchets were able to accurately hit the same one meter circle on a wall every 25 minutes from six different points on the battlefield. Fortified cities and castles with strong walls werecommon in medieval times, and siege weapons like thecatapult were often key to breaching the walls. In addition to being used to break down walls, the weapons were used to hurl various missiles inside the city or castle walls. “There was no limit to the kinds of ammunition that was used,” said Call. “The Lithuanians rained approximately 1200 cartloads of manure on a city just because they had it and they could throw it. Alexander the Great’s favorite was barrels full of vipers. He also would fire hornets’ nests.”
In medieval times, they used stones, bits of armor, or whatever they could get their hands on to use as projectile weapons. They also used burning objects to cause addi ional chaos. To make things worse for their enemies, they utilized both germ and psychological warfare against their opponents by flinging both dead and living bodies into theirenemy’s midst. It wasn’t uncommon for them to use members of their own army that had gotten sick or members of the enemy’s army that they had either captured or killed. “The Greeks really liked to fire the heads of their enemies over the wall,” said Call. The SCA does use siege weapons in their battles, but they have rules to promote safely. They have minimum firing ranges and they fire tennis balls rather than rocks.
At the conclusion of his lesson, Call allowed participants to load and shoot his to-scale models of historically accurate catapults and trebuchets. Ron Nelson is not a member of the SCA but said that he heard about the event through his wife. “My wife found it posted on one of the Copperas Cove websites and when they mentioned siege engines, I was like ‘Ah, I have a trebuchet myself. I’ll bring it along.’” Nelson said he doesn’t know yet whether or not he’ll join the SCA, but said that he enjoyed meeting all the new people there. He said he doesn’t know if he’ll ever want to dress up in armor, but plans on checking out one of their weekly meetings in Harker Heights.
The SCA is a medieval renaissance recreation group that works to recreate the most enjoyable aspects of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The group actively engages in armored and rapier combat. The group engages in other activities including, but not limited to brewing, cooking, metal work, shoemaking, and armoring. “The SCA is different things to different people. It’s at once family oriented, yet also adult oriented. It walks the line between extremely serious and totally geeky,” said Ty Downes (known in the SCA as Tobias Geluecke). “There’s room in it for just about everyone, from the people to take themselves too seriously to the people who show up just to have a good time. It’s a flexible organization.”
Those interested in joining the SCA are welcome to join one of the SCA’s meetings. The group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in Harker Heights at Carl Levin Park. They also meet at the Copperas Cove Library every third Wednesday of the month at 8 p.m. Past lessons at the library have included topics on medieval gowns, blacksmithing, and medieval dancing.For more information about the SCA visit www. sca.org and for information about their Central Texas branch, visit hellsgate.ansteorra. org.