Pre-Gunpowder Field Battle Artillery

Apr 2017
1,241
U.S.A.
#1
Before the invention of gunpowder was there any type of artillery (weapons that were too heavy for one person to use alone) that could be used in field battles and didn't require significant setup before use? Possible examples being the polybolos and carroballistae, any others?
 
Feb 2011
6,428
#2
Gunpowder was invented in the late Tang, not sure if you are counting periods in which gunpowder was invented, but guns/cannons weren't.

For example, on the Mongol conquest of the Song, it seemed like the Mongols were quick in adopting Chinese ballistas and using these designs against them:
[FONT=&quot]When the Chancellor Boya campaigned South, he had his crossbow carriages lead at the fore, followed by most of the army. Ferocious like a brave hawk, he had the crossbows at the front, and in all the mountains and precipitous passes, for passing through the barricades, for pacifying the moats, for setting up camps and ambushes, for setting forth unorthodox strategems, Boyan trusted in their use. So to province and township, advancing by land and by water, its responsibility was heavy. His army put down Lin An and extinguished the Song[/FONT][FONT=&quot] -From the YuanShi
[/FONT]​
[FONT=&quot]These types of ballistas spread to Southeast Asia and were used by the Mongols in the Middle East.[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]In the antiquity era, Great Yellow Crossbows were of draw weights of at least 645 lbs, and hence probably light field artillery. Here is a passage of its use in the Han dynasty:[/FONT]
Li Guang ordered his men into a circle facing outward. The barbarians attacked furiously and arrows fell like rain. Over half the Han soldiers were killed, and their arrows were nearly gone. Li Guang ordered his soldiers to draw their strings but refrain from firing, while he himself, using his Great Yellow Crossbow, shot at the enemy sub-commanders, killing several of them, nullifying the Xiongnu advantage. -Shiji
Even before the Han dynasty, it seemed tension ballistas were used on chariots:

[FONT=&quot]From the Six Secret Teachings:[/FONT][FONT=&quot]
[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]King Wu asked the Fai Kung: “When the king mobilizes the Three Armies, [/FONT][FONT=&quot]are there any rules for determining the army’s equipment, such as the imple[/FONT][FONT=&quot]ments for attack and defense, including type and quantity?” [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]The T ai Kung said: “A great question, my king! The implements for at[/FONT][FONT=&quot]tack and defense each have their own categories. This results in the greatawesomeness of the army .” [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]King Wu said: “I would like to hear about them.” [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]The Tai Kung replied: “As for the basic numbers when employing the [/FONT][FONT=&quot]army, if commanding ten thousand armed soldiers the rules for (the various[/FONT][FONT=&quot] types of equipment and their| employment are as follows. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Thirty-six Martial Protective Large Fu-hsii Chariots. Skilled officers,[/FONT][FONT=&quot] strong crossbowmen, spear bearers, and halberdiers— total of twenty-four for each flank [and the rear]. 6 ’ The chariots have eight-foot wheels. On it arc[/FONT][FONT=&quot]set up pennants and drums which, according to the Art of War, are referred to as ‘Shaking Fear.’ They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat[/FONT][FONT=&quot] strong enemies. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Seventy-two Martial-Flanking Large Covered Spear and Halberd Fu-hsii [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Chariots . Skilled officers, strong crossbowmen, spear bearers, and hal[/FONT][FONT=&quot]berdiers comprise the flanks. They have five-foot wheels and winch-powered linked crossbows which fire multiple arrows for self protection. They are[/FONT][FONT=&quot] used to penetrate solid formations and defeat strong enemies. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“One hundred and forty Flank-supporting Small Covered Fu-hsii Chari[/FONT][FONT=&quot]ots equipped with winch-powered linked crossbows to fire multiple arrows [/FONT][FONT=&quot]for self-protection. They have deer wheels and are used to penetrate solid[/FONT][FONT=&quot] formations and defeat strong enemies. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Thirty-six Great Yellow Triple-linked Crossbow Large Fu-hsii Chariots. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Skilled officers, strong crossbowmen, spear bearers, and halberdiers com[/FONT][FONT=&quot]prise the flanks, with ‘flying duck’ and ‘lightning’s shadow’ arrows for self protection. ‘Flying duck’ arrows have red shafts and white feathers, with[/FONT][FONT=&quot] bronze arrowheads. ‘Lightning’s shadow’ arrows have green shafts and red feathers, with iron heads . In the daytime they display pennants of red silk[/FONT][FONT=&quot] six feet long by six inches wide, which shimmer in the light. At night they hang pennants of white silk, also six feet long by six inches wide, which ap[/FONT][FONT=&quot]pear like meteors. They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat infantry and cavalry. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Thirty-six Great Fu-hsii Attack Chariots. ’ Carrying Praying Mantis [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Martial warriors, they can attack both horizontal and vertical formations[/FONT][FONT=&quot] and can defeat the enemy. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Baggage Chariots [for repelling) mounted invaders, also called ‘Lightning[/FONT][FONT=&quot] Chariots.’ The Art of War refers to their use in ‘lightning attacks.’ " They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat both infantry and cavalry. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“One hundred and sixty Spear and Halberd Fu-hsii Light Chariots |for re[/FONT][FONT=&quot]pelling] night invaders from the fore. Each carries three Praying Mantis Martial knights. The Art of War refers to them as mounting ‘thunder attacks.’[/FONT][FONT=&quot]They are used to penetrate solid formations, to defeat both infantry and cavalry. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Iron truncheons with large square heads weighing twelve catties, and [/FONT][FONT=&quot]shafts more than five feet long, twelve hundred of them. Also termed ‘Heav[/FONT][FONT=&quot]en’s Truncheon.’ [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“The Great Handle Fu Ax with an eight-inch blade, weighing eight catties,[/FONT][FONT=&quot] and a shaft more than five feet long, twelve hundred of them. Also termed ‘Heaven’s Yiieh Ax.’ [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Also the Iron Square-headed Pounder, weighing eight catties, with a shaft[/FONT][FONT=&quot] of more than five feet, twelve hundred. Also termed ‘Heaven’s Pounder. They are used to defeat infantry and hordes of mounted invaders. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“The Flying Hook, eight inches long. The curve of the hook is five inches[/FONT][FONT=&quot] long, the shaft is more than six feet long. Twelve hundred of them. They are thrown into masses of soldiers. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“To defend the Three Armies deploy Fu-hsii [chariots] equipped with [/FONT][FONT=&quot]wooden Praying Mantises and sword blades, each twenty feet across, alto[/FONT][FONT=&quot]gether one hundred and twenty of them. They are also termed chevaux-de-frise. On open, level ground the infantry can use them to defeat chariots[/FONT][FONT=&quot] and cavalry. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Wooden caltrops which stick out of the ground about two feet five [/FONT][FONT=&quot]inches, one hundred twenty. They are employed to defeat infantry and cav[/FONT][FONT=&quot]alry, to urgently press the attack against invaders, and to intercept their flight. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Short-axle Quick-turning Spear and Halberd Fu-hsii Chariots, one hun[/FONT][FONT=&quot]dred twenty. They were employed by the Yellow Emperor to vanquish Ch’ih-[/FONT][FONT=&quot]yu. They are used to defeat both infantry and cavalry, to urgently press the attack against the invaders, and to intercept their flight. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For narrow roads and small bypaths, set out iron caltrops eight inches[/FONT][FONT=&quot] wide, having hooks four inches high and shafts of more than six feet, twelve hundred. They are for defeating retreating cavalry. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“If, in the darkness of night the enemy should suddenly press an attack[/FONT][FONT=&quot] and the naked blades clash, stretch out a ground net and spread out two arrowheaded caltrops connected together with ‘weaving women’-type cal[/FONT][FONT=&quot]trops on both sides. The points of the blades should be about two feet apart. Twelve thousand sets. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For fighting in wild expanses and in the middle of tall grass, there is the[/FONT][FONT=&quot] square-shank, arrow-shaped spear, twelve hundred of them. The method for deploying these spears is to have them stick out of the ground one foot five[/FONT][FONT=&quot] inches. They are used to defeat infantry and cavalry, to urgently press the attack against invaders, and to intercept their flight. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“On narrow roads, small bypaths, and constricted terrain, set out iron [/FONT][FONT=&quot]chains, one hundred twenty of them, to defeat infantry and cavalry, urgently[/FONT][FONT=&quot] press the attack against the invaders, and intercept their flight. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For the protection and defense of the gates to fortifications, there are[/FONT][FONT=&quot] small |mobile] shields with spear and halberd [tips affixed], twelve of them, and winch-driven, multiple arrow crossbows for self-protection. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For the protection of the Three Armies, there are Heaven’s Net and Ti[/FONT][FONT=&quot]ger’s Drop, linked together with chains, one hundred twenty of them. One array is fifteen feet wide and eight feet tall. For the Fu-hsti [chariot| with Ti[/FONT][FONT=&quot]ger’s Drop and sword blades affixed, the array is fifteen feet wide and eightfeet tall. Five hundred ten of them. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For crossing over moats and ditches, there is the Flying Bridge. One sec[/FONT][FONT=&quot]tion is fifteen feet wide and more than twenty feet long. Eight of them. On top there are swivel winches to extend them by linked chains. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For crossing over large bodies of water, there is the Flying River, eight of[/FONT][FONT=&quot] them. They are fifteen feet wide and more than twenty feet long and are extended by linked chains. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“There is also the Heavenly Float with Iron Praying Mantis, rectangular[/FONT][FONT=&quot] inside, circular outside, four feet or more in diameter, equipped with plantern winches. Thirty-two of them. When the Heavenly Floats are used to[/FONT][FONT=&quot] deploy the Flying River to cross a large lake, they are referred to as ‘Heaven’s Huang’ and also termed ‘Heaven’s Boat.’ [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“When in mountain forests or occupying the wilds, connect the Tiger’s [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Drops to make a fenced encampment. [Employl iron chains, length of more than twenty feet, twelve hundred sets. [Also employ] large ropes with rings, ' girth of four inches, length of more than forty feet, six hundred;[/FONT][FONT=&quot] midsized ropes with rings, girth of two inches, length of forty feet or more, two hundred sets; and small braided cords with rings, length of twenty feet[/FONT][FONT=&quot] or more, twelve thousand. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Wooden canopies for covering the heavy chariots, called ‘Heaven’s Rain,’[/FONT][FONT=&quot]which fit together along serrated seams, each four feet wide and more than four feet long, one for each chariot. They are erected by using small iron[/FONT][FONT=&quot] posts. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“For cutting trees there is the Heavenly Ax, which weighs eight catties. Its[/FONT][FONT=&quot] handle is more than three feet long. Three hundred of them. Also the mattock with a blade six inches wide and a shaft more than five feet long, three[/FONT][FONT=&quot] hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Copper rams for pounding, more than five feet long, three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Eagle claws with square hafts, iron handles, and shafts more than seven[/FONT][FONT=&quot] feet long, three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Square-shafted iron pitchforks with handles more than seven feet long,[/FONT][FONT=&quot] three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Square-shafted double-pronged iron pitchforks with shafts more than [/FONT][FONT=&quot]seven feet long, three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Large sickles for cutting grass and light trees with shafts more than seven[/FONT][FONT=&quot] feet long, three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Great oar-shaped blades, weight of eight catties, with shafts more than[/FONT][FONT=&quot] six feet long, three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Iron stakes with rings affixed at top, more than three feet long, three hun[/FONT][FONT=&quot]dred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“Large hammers for pounding posts, weight of five catties, handles more[/FONT][FONT=&quot] than two feet long, one hundred twenty. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]“Armored soldiers, ten thousand. Strong crossbowmen, six thousand. [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Halberdiers with shields, two thousand. Spearmen with shields, two thou[/FONT][FONT=&quot]sand. Skilled men to repair offensive weapons and sharpen them, three hundred. [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]“These then are the general numbers required for each category when rais[/FONT][FONT=&quot]ing an army.” [/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]King Wu said: “I accept your instructions.”
[/FONT]
 
Apr 2017
1,241
U.S.A.
#3
Any non-gunpowder weapon is what i'm interested in, the timeline isn't overly important.
I had seen a Chinese historical fantasy movie with crossbows on chariots, didn't realize it was based on something real, interesting.
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,934
Dispargum
#4
In one of his battles that was a river crossing operation, Alexander the Great used catapults to cover the actual crossing by laying down suppressive fire. These were conventional siege artillery that took time to assemble, but I thought it was interesting that Alexander used something resembling modern field artillery.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,523
Sydney
#5
.
Nearly all pre gunpowder artillery were quite cumbersome and couldn't be moved , they had to be assembled from fixed positions , this made them suitable for either set battles or for their primary use , siege of fortifications .
it required a certain level of technical competency , IE civilization , barbarians couldn't use them
 
Feb 2011
6,428
#6
Any non-gunpowder weapon is what i'm interested in, the timeline isn't overly important.
I had seen a Chinese historical fantasy movie with crossbows on chariots, didn't realize it was based on something real, interesting.

When the technology spread to Southeast Asia, the Cham put it on their elephants:





Or they pushed it around with wheels:





Not sure how accurate this picture is, there's no reason to use such a big weapon if it's just hand-pulled:


 
Feb 2016
4,345
Japan
#7
Trebuchet
Mangonel
Onager
Catapults

Were the main seige Artillery devices. They were mainly used in seiges though.

Ballista and all its variations.
Springald was another type of heavy arrow launcher.

Not quite the same but also “artillery” like are the pots of boiling water/oil/pitch that castles would pour on besiegers attempting to storm the walls.
 
May 2009
1,298
#9
Yeah those big crossbows were called siege crossbows. They could get pretty elaborate. Some had multiple bows built in for greater power, and the Japanese built one that launched rocks rather than arrows, like a hybrid catapult/siege crossbow. They were also useful for launching bombs and exploding arrows when gunpowder became prevalent, but this is about non-gunpowder uses, so...


Here's a Sung dynasty multi-bow model.





Here's the Japanese rock-thrower


 
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