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Middle Ages[edit]

The phrase "no anointment" puzzles me: does it refer to lubrication of the machinery, or to 'oiling' the torsion device to prevent - or minimise - the effects of damp which would otherwise reduce the efficiency of the balista? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Dawright12 (talkcontribs) 12:14, 7 March 2012 (UTC)

A lubricant/coolant is needed at higher tensions. This is especially true with wood which can become much more abrasive when exposed to heat. The problem with adding the lubricant/coolant (often either water or oil.. but not both) is that some of the material will expand (and later shrink. The expansion requires more monitoring and adjusting. It also causes dual axis accuracy problems. I don't have a source for this other than personal experience and discussions with other hobbyists. KadaganX (talk) 15:30, 13 August 2012 (UTC)


How can a Latin word claim to derive from a Latin one?

It can, how did WiFi come from Wireless Fiberoptic?
ITYM "Italian" on the second one, and yes, it doesn't make sense. gives the etymology as Greek via Latin, so I've updated the article accordingly. DopefishJustin (・∀・) 04:47, 1 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Lee Tru. 01:01, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Human Hair[edit]

Can someone give a reference to the use of human hair in ballista ropes? It seems unlikely to me. --Carnildo 08:37, 26 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Since no one has obliged, I've edited out all mention of human hair for now. --Simetrical 01:39, 16 Jan 2005 (UTC)

It is mentioned in Salammbô (novel) by Gustave Flaubert. Wandalstouring 19:20, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

It is true, when I get home I'll put up a ref.-- Lee Tru. 01:02, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Human Hair[edit]

I have heard that the ropes use sinews and horse hair, but in a pinch they would use human hair.

i've heard that the hair of blonde women was favoured, but that it was useless when it got wet or humid.

I can confirm that wet rendered the torsion system less usefull. therefore it was oiled and protected.

blonde could refer to the length and not to the colour. Germanic women were very proud of their long hair, being part of their sex appeal. And like all Germans in these times invested a lot of time in taking care of their hair.

Wandalstouring 19:22, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

Longbow more powerful than a ballista?[edit]

"as the .. Longbow, and eventually the Crossbow (learned from the Chinese) were more accurate and powerful"

According to what definition of "powerful" can a longbow outclass a ballista? I suggest to change that paragraph into

"as the Trebuchet and Mangonel were more powerful, while the Longbow, and eventually the Crossbow (learned from the Chinese) were more accurate."

Actually, none of these weapons had the same level of precision of the ballistae. These ancient weapons were the most precise type of catapult ever made and the most sophisticated too. It is impossible to compared the precision of catapults with bows, because bows were operated by hand. Also, it is impossible to say that some type of catapult was more powerful than others.RafaelG

-Removed "(learned from the Chinese)", since no reference is given for this statement, which is dubious since the Romans had a crossbow (the arcuballista) and the Arabs called crossbows "Frankish" bows, suggesting it is more likely the weapon was passed to Western Europe from the Romans rather than the Chinese.

Perhaps "powerful" refers (was meant to refer) to the speed of the projectile shot. But I agree, that it doesn't seem practical to compare "power" of weapons with several magnitudes difference in between the projectiles used. (Is it like to compare a machinegun to a SCUD?) (talk) 09:53, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Last use in combat?[edit]

Would anyone know the last time a ballista was used in combat? 03:48, 16 May 2006 (UTC)

Look up the history of the byzantine Empire. Wandalstouring 19:24, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

composite bow[edit]

Gastraphetes means belly bow what does it have to do with a composite bow and how does a crossbow develop from a composite bow? Every other wiki says Gastraphetes were an early version of crossbows. Wandalstouring 19:32, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

Size of a ballista[edit]

Main source about siege engines and ballistas:

The small versions were called Scorpions:


The ballista and especially the Cheiroballista were developed into small all-metall versions, a development compareable to the Medieval crossbow.

Wandalstouring 19:41, 13 June 2006 (UTC)


They made a lot of improvements, and around 400 b.C., they came up with the Gastrophetes. This was a big step forward in siege engineering, since the gastrophetes (or "bellybow") could lauch an arrow further and with more power than an ordinary bow. It couldn't, however, be used for sieges against towns, since a stone wall wouldn't break down because of a little arrow.

-> Gastrophetes is no siege engine and all that stuff about not being able to handle this weapon is nonsense.

The real siege engine was called oxybeles

Wandalstouring 19:52, 13 June 2006 (UTC)

the two merge requests[edit]

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

The result was no merger. -- G1ggy Talk/Contribs 09:48, 18 June 2007 (UTC) i am all for these mergers, their article are both short and under developed and they are both pretty clearly deeply related to the balista and would serve the community better by being in this article then having them stand by themselves. on top of that with the cheiroballistra there is already a section about it in this article, which covers nearly all of the same points as it's stand alone article--Manwithbrisk 16:42, 5 February 2007 (UTC)

No merger - these are separate weapons and should have their own articles {{{Keep and Expand}}}. Headphonos 23:14, 15 February 2007 (UTC)
then expand on them, but leaving them as vestigial articles only begs two responces, merge, or delete--Manwithbrisk 06:13, 16 February 2007 (UTC)
No merger - all ballistae are castapults, but not all catapults are ballistae. Mon Vier 13:29, 10 May 2007 (UTC)

The above discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section.

Broken (?) Link[edit]

Under "The cheiroballistra/Manuballista": the external link returns a "403 Forbidden" error.

Basesurge (talk) 09:59, 25 March 2008 (UTC)

The Missing Link[edit]

Please note, the link for "skeins" only goes to a disambiguation that has no relevant link from there. I would dearly love to know what a skein is in this context so perhaps someone would kindly put a bracketted sub explanation next to the actual word in the opening paragraph or better still, make a whole new entry for it in the encyclopedia and fix a link to it. Kindest regards to all Outofthewoods (talk) 23:30, 10 November 2010 (UTC)

+1: I would like to add my one to this request. "Skeins" links to a very generic axplanation of any kind of fibres curled up in loops or something similar, it applies mostly to knitting yarn. I understand, that in case of ballistae some kind of animal, or herbal fibre could be used in some kind of string, or rope that could be twisted and then spring back when released, but some more technical details would be definitely wellcome. (talk) 10:04, 22 July 2014 (UTC)

Longbows as sniper weapons[edit]

At the bottem of the page, it says that the ballista was replaced with crossbows and longbows as sniper weapons. First off, I am fairly certain that longbows were primarily used in only a few countries. Additionally, I know for a fact that medeival archers fired as a unit, while targeting other units, not as individual men firing at other men. I belive the same can be said for men using crossbows, but I am not completely sure.---Obolisk0430 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Obolisk0430 (talkcontribs) 16:28, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

The crossbow was more of a sniper weapon than the longbow due to the fact that a long bow had to be fired right after drawing and the crossbow could not and the crossbow was more powerful.-- Lee Tru. 01:06, 18 April 2013 (UTC)


You seem to have blocked people because they vandalised thus talk page. User zchad also did this yesterday — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:54, 19 March 2012 (UTC)

Lack of In-Line Citations[edit]

In my opinion, there should be more in-text citations. Past the opening/overview paragraph, there are only one or two citations, and it is unclear where the information is originating from. — Preceding unsigned comment added by TriesToFixGrammar (talkcontribs) 03:46, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Ballistae vs ballistas[edit]

In the heading section it is said that the plural form is "ballistas" while in the text, we can see "roman ballistae". Now which one of them is correct? As far as I know, if the word is of Latin origin, the plural should be ballistae, and maybe, with an accepted form (especially in US) of ballistas (MS Word gives me ballistae). But English is not my first language so I'm not in a position to correct this. Apass (talk) 22:24, 21 October 2012 (UTC)

Ballistae is the proper Latin plural form however (sadly) that is becoming more and more un-importaint.-- Lee Tru. 01:08, 18 April 2013 (UTC)
But still a decisive point, it is a Latin word after all and the Latin plural is generally still used for this word and others describing Roman things. I !vote to continue with "ballistae". Richard Keatinge (talk) 11:38, 18 April 2013 (UTC)

Earliest evidence of ballista[edit]

While King Uzziah reigned around 800 BCE, Chronicles is believed to have been written around 300-400 BCE, a time period where ballistae were already established. Some doubt the claim, and that it was simply attributing inventions of modern wonders to him without any actual evidence. Was it oral history? Written and copied? Just storytelling?

A competing claim is that Ajatasatru had a catapult around 500 BCE. Again, this is based on Jain religious texts believed to have been written roughly the same time as Chronicles (300-400 BCE). However the evidence here is even thinner, as a literal translation ends up with something like "by the divine influence of the Indras even the pebbles, straws, leaves hurled by Ajatasatru's men fell like rocks on the army of Chetaka". So either scholars who make a claim of catapults based on this are reading between the lines, or there's other references elsewhere that I haven't seen. At any rate, the problem is the same as with the biblical reference: by the time these stories were written, catapults were well-established, and the historical claim is suspect.

There's also the claim of a ballista appearing in a 9th century BCE relief from Nimrud. However this is based on an 1875 interpretation of an 1849 drawing of the relief, and the drawing I've seen looks nothing at all (and I mean NOTHING AT ALL) like a ballista. It's possible that this was a numbering error and some other drawing was being referred to. But I've never seen any relief or drawing of a relief from there that clearly looked like a ballista. Battling McGook (talk) 02:33, 19 October 2014 (UTC)

Find some Reliable Sources pertaining to this doubt and you can add some commentary on it. As it is though, without such sources, any additions like that would be Original Research. Jcmcc (Talk) 09:10, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
As it stands now the article says near the top "The earliest mention of ballista in literature occurs in the Bible, as invented and used under the reign of king Uzziah..." This is problematic, as the broad ranges in which either Chronicles or the Jain texts might have been written could reasonably place the Jain texts as earlier. This at least should be fixed.
As far as original research, it's never been clear to me where to draw the line. Most of what I've described above can be factually derived from the sources. The date ranges for the writings of the texts are all over the map though, and my estimates above ARE based on my own qualitative opinions of various sources. I could certainly merely reference various sources on possible times of writing. But here's where I'm confused: if I say that the actual evidence for catapults can't be dated back to the events of the original stories, is this me drawing a conclusion, or is this a simple 2+2=4 statement of the obvious, that texts written 200-400 years after the events in question can not be take as evidence of those events?
This is, of course, why I put all this here in the first place, instead of just jumping in and editing the article. Battling McGook (talk) 15:39, 13 April 2015 (UTC)
Here in lies the problem: If you take source 1 that states that Chronicles was written around 400 BC, then take the source that says the bible says X about ballistae, then combine the two to create a conclusion (i.e. "its possible that X happened because it makes sense to me") you have created a Synthesis. Even though you are probably right, without a source we can't add it to a tertiary source without a secondary source to back it. Jcmcc (Talk) 20:18, 13 April 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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