Cave ne ante ullas catapultas ambules*!
It’s summer time and that means it’s time to build things. I’m fond of building catapults because they’re as complicated or as simple as you care to make them. Use wood dowels for small ones, or dimensional 2 x 4’s for bigger ones (but not too big, there’s a lot of stress in a swinging counterweight or a spring holding frame. Bigger trebuchets and ballistae require beefy structurall members.) To build your own model catapults, trebuchets, ballistas, onagers, petraries, espringales, blide, and rock slingers, check out my book The Art of the Catapult.
I built a fairly large and historically accurate trebuchet a couple of years ago. I named it Ludgar, the Warwolf, after the huge trebuchet built by Edward I of England in 1304. Below is a time lapse picture of it hurling a lighted projectile from one end of a parking lot near my home to the other. The original Ludgar was really big, so big that historical accounts of the time say that Edward cut down an entire forest to obtain enough wood.
For more ideas, you can head to the video rental store. Lately I’ve noticed a lot of movies with catapults in them. For instance, they were the special-effects star in last year’s Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian movie. Besides that one, consider the first Night at the Museum, The Lord of the Rings movies, and King Arthur among others. They’ve been on TV as well: Fox Sports, the Simpsons, Little People-Big World, Northern Exposure, PBS Nova, Warner Brother’s cartoons and probably many others. I’ve started to keep track, noting whenever I see a movie or a movie trailer with any sort of hurling siege weapon.
So, here’s my list, admittedly incomplete. If you’ve got more, post a comment.
- Chronicles of Narnia – Prince Caspian
- Night at the Museum
- Kingdom of Heaven
- Attila the Hun
- King Arthur
- Lord of the Ring – Return of the King – (Great CGI effects here; the motion of the trebuchets is very fluid and realistic.)
- Gladiator – (Probably my all time favorite catapult movie. The catapults are fine and I really enjoyed Russell Crowe’s performance.)
- The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc –
- Last Castle
- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Full disclosure: the catapult is alluded to but not seen. I love it when John Cleese sneers, “Fetchez la vache!”)
- Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
- Robin and Marian
- Robin Hood Men in Tights
- The Scorpion King
- Flesh and Blood
- Army of Darkness (Skeleton operated catapults!)
- Timeline (not a great movie but a very good trebuchet)
- Young Einstein
- Empire Strikes Back
- Richie Rich
- El Cid