A Weapon Of Mass Destruction For the Middle Ages: The Trabuco

Born out of the tumultuous battles of the Middle Ages, the Trabuco is a powerful weapon used to crush walls, or bypass them completely, flinging all manner of objects to the other side. The cousin of the catapult, but with a simpler mechanism, the counterweighted devices were used not just for destruction, but were actually one of the first instances of biological warfare. It has been reported that, during the Bubonic Plague, Trabuco were employed to hurl disease-riddled corpses into population areas in the hopes of spreading death and disease.


A Trabuco operates from the forces of kinetic energy, unleashed by a counterweight, attached to sling-type mechanics. Originally, the devices were designed to be small and moveable, with a throwing capacity of a few hundred pounds. Over time, however, they grew in strength, eventually capable of hurtling 3000 pounds of rock and debris hundreds of feet. The structure of a traditional Trabuco consists of a long arm mounted on a sturdy base, or wheeled cart. A hefty counterweight is used to pull back the arm, and once released, harnesses that energy to launch its contents across great distances. Read This Article for more information.


Those first, small Trabuco are thought to have originated in China sometime around 400 B.C., but it was their arrival in Europe, around 1000 A.D., spreading first to the Byzantine and Persian Empires and then into Scandinavia, that saw their widespread deployment. During the tumultuous and bloody period of siege-mentality engendered by the Crusades, the Trabuco rose to its greatest prominence.


The Trabuco would remain as a primary weapon of war for centuries. Only with the advent of gunpowder was the Trabuco finally supplanted by more rapid and powerful cannons, sometime in the 15th and 16th centuries. Hernando Cortez, in his conquest of Tenochtitlan in 1521, ordered the last known military deployment of a Trabuco when his men ran out of gunpowder.


Today the once-lethal weapons are used for less nefarious purposes, providing a great resource for teaching mechanics, or for contests of a fun, competitive nature.


Check out a real Trabuco on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCS7mm_kj7I

How Warfare Changed With The Introduction Of The Trabuco

The Trabuco is a siege weapon which rewrote the rules of war during the medieval period. In the 4th century B.C.E. it had been invented by military geniuses in China and its use was spread west by nomadic people. It eventually appeared in the Pannonian basin which is in modern-day Hungary.

Its first used by an army in Europe was by the Byzantine Romans according to priberam.pt. They started using this weapon in the 6th century C.E. and over the next few centuries armies across Europe started using it after witnessing its devastating power.

The earlies Trabuco’s could and 18 kg rock up to 80 meters away. After a number of modifications made to its design over the years his siege weapon could send a 1-ton rock even farther away. The Trabuco was used to destroy enemy ramparts and castles according to pt.bab.la. Because it was so powerful and could send its payload to far it made the castle walls of its time obsolete. Over the centuries engineers would design thicker wall which could help against the power of a Trabuco but these were very expensive to build and maintain and so not many castles of this type were ever built.

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Any army which had Trabuco’s on its side, while their enemy didn’t, had a huge advantage according to sinonimos.com.br. The Trabuco could be used to send massive boulders down on walls and soldiers. Some enterprising armies designed ceramic balls filled with a fiery liquid. These would be shot at army formations and when they hit they shattered causing widespread death among the ranks. Sometimes dead and diseased cows and other animals would be thrown at the enemy in an early version of biological warfare.

It was the use of a counterweight which made the Trabuco so much more powerful than anything that had been used in warfare before. A Trabuco has an arm which is shorter on one end and longer on the other. The short end held the counterweight while the longer arm had a sling attached to it. When a pin was removed the counterweight shot towards the ground which caused anything in the sling to get tossed forward with pretty good precision.

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