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The ballista (Latin, from Greek βαλλίστρα - ballistra[1] and that from - βάλλω ballō, "throw"),[2] plural ballistae, was an ancient missile weapon which launched a large projectile at a distant target.

Developed from earlier Greek weapons, it relied upon different mechanics, using two levers with torsion springs instead of a prod, the springs consisting of several loops of twisted skeins. Early versions ejected heavy darts or spherical stone projectiles of various sizes for siege warfare. It developed into a smaller sniper weapon, the Scorpio,[3] and possibly the polybolos.


Greek weapon

The early ballista in Ancient Greece was developed from two weapons called oxybeles and gastraphetes. The gastraphetes ('belly-bow') was a hand held crossbow. It had a composite prod and was spanned with both hands, with a ratchet preventing it from shooting while loading. The power available was not sufficient to be used successfully against armoured troops. The oxybeles was a bigger and heavier construction employing a winch, and was mounted on a tripod. It had a lower rate of fire and was used as a siege engine.

With the invention of torsion spring bundle technology, the first ballista was built. The advantage of this new technology was the fast relaxation time of this system. Thus it was possible to shoot lighter projectiles with higher velocities over a longer distance.

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