Trabuco: The Ancient War Machine that Collapsed Walls

     In Medieval combat perhaps nothing was more terrifying than watching a fortress wall tumble in front of you. The mass protection walls surrounding a castle, or fortress, were the first line of defense upon engaging a coming army. If those walls were to be brought down, thousands of enemy invaders would be upon your finest warriors, and most likely civilians, in a matter of moments. Thus, as war is fought through deconstructing the enemy’s best defenses, a weapon was developed that would hurl massive stones into walls, dead bodies riddled with the plague, and for many conquering armies, anything they could afford to expend to hit the enemy with.

The Trabuco, also commonly known as the balancing Trabuco due to the mechanism by which the machine operates, is believed to have been invented in China sometime around four hundred B.C. Russian traders in the area were responsible for bringing the Trabuco to Europe approximately two hundred years later. Kingdoms in medieval Europe employed the Trabuco to make war upon rivaling clans. At one point, during the plague ages, the weapon was used to launch the corpses of those afflicted with the disease over an enemy wall, which may be the first recorded instance of germ warfare.

In the crusades, the Trabuco was employed by both the Christian and Muslim armies, and was used widely throughout the religious conflicts. The Brazilian armies of the time also made use of the weapon, though commonly loaded it with a variety of projectiles so that the Trabuco functioned in an early shotgun like design. The terrifying image of the Trabuco upon the fortress walls, or being hauled on to the battlefield by horses or strong men, also served as a form of psychological warfare against opponents, even resulting in some historical instances of driving the enemy to retreat.

The Trabuco functioned by transferring the potential energy of the object it was launching into kinetic energy via the sling and balance. Varying sizes of Trabuco were fashioned so that various sizes of projectile could be launched. Trabuco’s mostly faded from battlefields after the introduction of gunpowder, and cannons, which essentially made them obsolete.

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