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A catapult is a device used to throw or hurl a projectile a great distance without the aid of explosive devices—particularly various types of ancient and medieval siege engines.[1] Although the catapult has been used since ancient times, it has proven to be one of the most effective mechanisms during warfare. The word 'Catapult' comes from the two Greek words "kata" (downward) and "pultos" (a small circular battle shield).[2] Katapultos was then taken to mean "shield piercer".


Earliest catapults

Under King Uzziah of Judah (8th – 7th c. BC), a brief description of a catapult is mentioned as having been developed in defense of the walls of Jerusalem. "In Jerusalem he made machines designed by skillful men for use on the towers and on the corner defenses to shoot arrows and hurl large stones." 2 Chronicles 26:15.

Catapults also appear to figure into a relief from Nimrud (now Iraq) dating back to the 9th century B.C.[3]

Greek and Roman catapults

The early history of the catapult and the crossbow in Greece is closely intertwined. Primitive catapults were essentially “the product of relatively straightforward attempts to increase the range and penetrating power of missiles by strengthening the bow which propelled them”.[3] The historian Diodorus Siculus (fl. 1st century BC), described the invention of a mechanical arrow firing catapult (katapeltikon) by a Greek task force in 399 BC.[4][5] The weapon was soon after employed against Motya (397 BC), a key Carthaginian stronghold in Sicily.[6][7] Diodorus is assumed to have drawn his description from the highly rated[8] history of Philistus, a contemporary of the events then. The date of the introduction of crossbows, however, can be dated further back: According to the inventor Hero of Alexandria (fl. 1st c. AD), who referred to the now lost works of the 3rd century BC engineer Ctesibius, this weapon was inspired by an earlier foot-held crossbow, called the gastraphetes, which could store more energy than the Greek bows. A detailed description of the gastraphetes, or the “belly-bow”[9], along with a watercolor drawing, is found in Heron's technical treatise Belopoeica.[10][11]

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