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27 Jul

Medieval Sieges

Medieval warfare is best known for direct armed confrontations but siege warfare played a major role as well. Holding strategically important castles and fortresses granted control over the territory. All medieval castles, fortresses and cities had massive defensive walls and their own garrisons, stationed troops which defended the castle, fortress or a city in case of an attack. Thus it was a lot easier to defend a castle, fortress or city until the invention of gunpowder-based weapons.

The first medieval castles built by the Normans were generally motte-and-bailey, a wooden or stone structure on the top of a raised earth mound or small (usually artificial) hill. Castles eventually evolved into more complex constructions with an array of defensive features such as the enciente (a fortified enclosure of castle’s precincts) and surrounding ditch that was sometimes filled with water and had removable or turning bridge leading to the gatehouse. Defensive features of medieval castles often included the outer fortifications to stop the enemy before reaching the main castle. If enemy succeeded to crush the defense of outer fortifications the castle was defended from the keep. Sieges were often laid to the medieval cities as well. For that reason all larger medieval cities featured massive city walls as well as citadels, forts and castles.

Medieval sieges usually lasted for months. The besieging armies tried to break in the castle, fortress or a city over or beneath its surrounding walls, or by breaching the walls with different siege machines and weapons. However, medieval castles, fortresses and cities were most often captured by negotiations, bribery or by cutting off the food supply to starve out their holders and force them to surrender.

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