- 1 European Weaponry
- 2 Asian Weaponry
- 3 Improvised Weaponry
- 4 Siege Engines
- 5 Other Resources
- 6 See Also
Here are some well-known and not so well-known weapons that your character or your men might be wielding, or facing, in battle. Within their types, weapons are listed alphabetically.
Gunpowder weaponry is not listed, as BattleMaster never mentions it.
Axes have been included in this list.
- Ahlspiess - also called an Awl Pike. A metal spike, usually over three feet in length, mounted on a shaft of 5 to 6 feet in length. At the base of the spike was a rondel guard, a simple round piece of metal, to protect the hands.
- Bardiche - an Eastern European weapon. A tall axehead - perhaps 2 feet long - mounted by two sockets onto a short pole, usually up to 5 feet long.
- Battle Axe - an axe specifically designed for warfare. Since flesh is easier to slice than wood, battle axes were usually lighter than utility axes and had narrower blades. Axes might be used by horsemen or infantrymen, and might be double- or single-handed.
- Bec de Corbin - similar to a polearm length war hammer (see below). Usually, instead of using the hammer head to attack, the hammer's 'beak' or fluke was used.
- Bec de Faucon - a polearm with a large hammer head instead of an axe, and backed with a spike or curved fluke. The weapon either terminated in a heavy steel counterweight, or a sharpened buttspike, and seemed to range anywhere from five to seven or more feet long.
- Bill - also called a bill hook or bill-guisarme. A pole 6 to 9 feet long, with (usually) three implements attached: a blade on one side of the end, a hook on the other and a spear-like spike straight off the top.
- Boar Spear - a short and heavy spear for hunting wild boar. Two 'lugs' or wings were placed behind the blade of the spear to prevent the head entering too deep, and to stop the boar working its way up the spear. On the battlefield, the lugs could be used to entangle enemy equipment, and also prevented a thrust going too deep which meant the user could be confident that he would be able to pull the spear out again.
- Breach-Pike - an awl pike without the rondel guard.
- Candeliere - an Italian term, literally 'candlestick'. This was a shortened awl pike.
- Chacing Staff - also called a chasing staff, this was a staff 10 to 12 feet long with a spike on the butt end and a shallow blade on the other. It resembled an early halberd or bill.
- Danish Axe - originally the axe used by the Vikings, 4 to 6 feet long. This spread throughout Europe during the 13th century.
- Doloire - also called a wagoner's axe, this was roughly 5 feet long. The head was pointed at the top and rounded at the bottom, and a small hammer head is mounted on the reverse. As the alternative name suggests, this weapon was used as a tool and for self-defence by the men in charge of supply trains.
- Fauchard - a curved blade mounted on a 6 to 7 foot pole. The curve of the blade was concave, similar to a sickle or scythe.
- Fauchard-Fork - a fauchard (see above), with a lance point attached to the top or the point of the blade.
- Flax - like the pitchfork, this was a farming implement, in this case one used to manipulate the material flax, used as an improvised weapon. This was a serrated, saw-like blade, topped with a broad, flat hook and with a spike on the reverse, mounted on a 7 to 8 foot pole.
- Glaive - a single edged blade - perhaps 18 inches long - mounted on a pole 6 to 7 feet long.
- Guisarme - also called a gisarme or bisarme. Originally simply a pruning hook on a spear shaft. Later a hooked blade with a spike on the reverse side. Eventually a catch-all term for any weapon with a hook on.
- Halberd - An axe head on a pole, with a hook-blade on the reverse and a long spike straight off the top.
- Half-Pike - a shortened pike, commonly used by sailors, as it was easier to manipulate in the limited space of a ship's deck.
- Jousting Lance - a lance (see below), but with a blunt and spread out tip, and sometimes with a hollowed shaft to break on impact.
- Lance - the lance as used by knights was longer, stouter and heavier than the spear and was mounted with a vamplate, a circular metal plate to prevent the hand sliding up the shaft upon impact. Once the initial charge had been made, the lance usually had to be abandoned.
- Long-Bearded Axe - an axe where the cutting edge of the blade extends below the width of the throat, which saves weight and allows the axe to be held just below the head if necessary, for close blows and woodcutting.
- Lucerne Hammer - so-called because many were found at Lucerne, Switzerland. This is a three or four pronged hammer head mounted on a 7 foot pole, with a spike on the reverse and a longer spike straight of the top.
- Man Catcher - a bizarre non-lethal polearm. A pole mounted with a two-pronged head. Each prong was semi-circular, with a spring-loaded 'door' on the front. This valve-like system allowed a man-sized object to be caught from a horse and pinned to the ground. This was ideal for capturing nobles for ransom.
- Mattock - similar to a pickaxe, but with the head terminating in a broader blade than the pickaxe's long spike. This was an agricultural implement that could be used as an improvised weapon by peasants.
- Military Fork - an evolution of the pitchfork (see below) for battlefield use. Usually military forks had only two tines (prongs); these were usually parallel or slightly flared. This became the favoured polearm in some areas of Europe.
- Ox Tongue Spear - also called the langue de boeuf. An English broad bladed, double edged halberd.
- Partisan - also called a partizan. A lance or spear head mounted on a shaft with a small double axe head mounted just below it. It eventually became clear that the partisan was not a good battlefield weapon. It became a ceremonial and civil weapon, and so might be borne by city guards and militia.
- Pike - a polearm, similar to a spear, from 10 to a remarkable 22 feet long. Primarily used in a close formation against cavalry.
- Pitchfork - a farming implement which might be used by peasants lacking anything else. Pitchforks varied in lengths and usually had 2 to 6 tines.
- Poleaxe - also called a pole axe, poll-axe, polax or hache. This was a polearm 4 to 7 feet long with a modular head. Usually an axe blade - smaller than that of a halberd - or a hammer head was mounted on the damaging 'face', with a spike, hammer or fluke on the reverse. A blade often came off the top too. A rondel guard might be fixed below the head, and a spike might be fixed to the butt.
- Ranseur - also called a runka or rawcon. Essentially a spear with a cross hilt mounted just below the head. Sometimes the hilt was crescent shaped, which produced something like a trident.
- Spear - the simplest polearm. The spear was cheap and required little training, but as the Middle Ages progressed, it was gradually abandoned in favour of other polearms.
- Spetum - also called a chauve, souris, corseca, corsèsque, and korseke. A 6 to 8 foot long polearm, spear-tipped, with two projections at the base of the tip. Unlike the ranseur and the partisan, the projections are single edged and used for slashing.
- Swordstaff - a Danish weapon ('Svaerdstav'), in essence a sword blade mounted on a staff - not as long as a spear but longer than a sword - and thus better than a spear for very close combat, and better than a sword for fighting mounted opponents. However, it was probably a 'jack of all trades and master of none' because of its hybrid nature.
- War Hammer - a hammer head mounted on a pole or staff. Polearm length war hammers were employed against cavalry, whereas shorter war hammers were used by them. Often a spike might be mounted straight off the top.
- War Scythe - this is a peasant's scythe, but adapted for warfare. The blade is moved, from its position at right angles to the shaft, to extend upright from it. Particularly associated with Poland.
- Voulge - a polearm similar to a glaive (see above), but with a broader blade and more of a hacking than a cutting motion. Sometimes the blade narrowed to a 'pointed top' for stabbing.
- Chain Mace - a morningstar (see below) or a metal ball on the end of a long length of chain. The chain was often wrapped in leather or another protective material.
- Club - also called a cudgel or a bludgeon. Probably the simplest of all weapons. A wooden stick with which the wielder strikes his enemies. This would be a peasant's weapon, but soldiers might employ it when doing police work. Maces were derived from clubs.
- Cosh - otherwise known as a sap or a blackjack, it was simply lead weights wrapped in a bag, and used to incapacitate people when they weren't looking. Other heavy materials could be substituted. A common mugger's weapon, as it was easily concealed.
- Flail - strictly speaking, one or more metal balls - sometimes morningstars (see below) - attached by a chain or chains to a staff. An impact weapon, which could curve around a shield or a parrying weapon.. Named a flail because the wielder's motions resembled those of someone using the (quite different) farming implement.
- Godendag - also called the goedendag, plançon-à-picot or chandelier. This was a Flemish variant of the morningstar mace. It was a long wooden club, 4 to 6 feet long, with an iron spike on the end.
- Holy Water Sprinkler - also called a goupillon. Strictly speaking, a short, spiked iron bar on the end of a chain, similar to a morningstar flail - indeed the term can also refer to morningstar flails or morningstar maces. So-called probably because the spikes resemble sprays of holy water from an eclesiastical aspergillum.
- Horseman's Pick - a cavalry war hammer, with a long spike on the reverse of the hammer head. The spike was curved downwards, giving it a pick-like shape.
- Long Stave - also long staff. This was a longer, Early Modern version of the quarterstaff (see below). A long stave could be 12 to 18 feet long.
- Mace - a wooden, reinforced or metal shaft topped with a metal or stone head, which was thicker than the shaft and often sported spikes, knobs or flanges. Infantry maces were usually 2 to 3 feet long. Cavalry maces were somewhat longer.
- Maul - originally a long handled hammer used to split wood, with a wedge-shaped head, a little like a broad axehead. A peasant's implement. This could be modified with metal banding and rivets to provide a battlefield weapon. Two-handed maces were also called mauls.
- Morningstar - strictly speaking, the small spiked round ball found either on the end of a chain in a flail or on the end of a shaft in a morningstar mace. More generally could refer to any type of spiked club.
- Quarterstaff - an English staff weapon, usually 6 to 9 feet long. A quarterstaff might have metal caps or spikes at one or both ends. Early, longer variants of the quarterstaff were called long staves (see above). Many implements can be converted into a quarterstaff and a quarterstaff could of course be used as a long walking staff.
- Shillelagh - a weapon associated with Ireland. A wooden club or cudgel, usually a knotty stick with a large knob on the end, made from blackthorn or oak. A shillelagh might be hollowed out at the striking end and filled with molten lead. This variation was called a 'loaded stick'.
- Shield - Shields could serve as a weapon in an emergency, especially with the addition of spikes or sharp edges.
- Arming Sword - a single handed, double edged sword usually used for cutting. Until the late 13th century and the rise of the longsword, these swords were the standard knight's sword - 'war sword' - and after that time they remained a common side-arm. Knights would wear arming swords in and out of armour; they would be 'undressed' without one.
- Backsword - the backsword was so named because it only had one cutting edge. The non-cutting edge (the back of the blade) was much thicker than the cutting edge thus creating a wedge type cross-section.
- Baselard - also called a basillard, this was a Swiss weapon, somewhere between a short sword and a dagger. It was perhaps 40 centimeters long, although after the Middle Ages it became longer.
- Cinquedea - a thrusting civilian short sword from Italy during the end of the Middle Ages, with a heavy, roughly 45 centimetre long blade.
- Claymore - a two-handed sword, somewhat smaller and lighter, and thus faster, than other two-handed swords. Medieval claymores - with a cross guard - are different from the 18th century basket-hilt claymore. The blade was roughly 40 inches long.
- Dagger - a simple knife, usually double edged. A particularly popular variant was the rondel (see below). Daggers were usually used as a side-arm, and, since they could penetrate the joints in a suit of armour, they could be used to kill an unhorsed knight or to force him to surrender.
- Dirk - a Scottish word. The actual configuration of a dirk varied. Sometimes a dirk was a small, straight dagger; sometimes it was a sword blade mounted with a dagger hilt.
- Ear Dagger - a rare weapon, thought to have originated in Spain. An Ear Dagger usually had a single sharpened edge ending in an acute point. The pommel had a distinctive shape, supposedly resembling a human ear.
- Falchion - a single hand, single edged sword with a wide blade. These were cheap to produce.
- Flamberge - any sword with a wavy edge (hence the name, 'flame blade'). Such a sword would have been attractive and distinctive, but would also apparently create unusual vibrations in an opponent's blade when parrying, which might disrupt their technique. The word 'flamberge' was sometimes also used to refer to a Zweihänder sword (see below).
- Greatsword - a 'greatsword' was not a particular type of sword, but the word might mean a heavy arming sword, a large longsword, a claymore or a bihänder
- Großes Messer - also called a langmesser, heibmesser or simply a messer, this was a single edged, inexpensive German blade, similar to a falchion. The blade might be 30 inches long.
- Katzbalger - an arming sword 75 to 85 cm long, with a distinctive figure-eight shaped guard. Famously sturdy, sometimes used as a secondary weapon by pikemen, archers and crossbowmen.
- Longsword - also called a langschwerdt, spadone or montante (the terms bastard sword and hand-and-a-half sword are modern). An evolution of the arming sword, with a cross guard. Lengths varied, but usually both hands could fit comfortably onto the hilt, although it might be used one-handed.
- Misericorde - also called a mercygiver, this was a long English knife specifically designed for delivering a coup de grâce to a wounded man. It saw much use during the Hundred Years' War; the French considered it unchivalrous.
- Poniard - a thrusting dagger with a slim square or triangular blade.
- Romphaia - a two-handed sword with a shallow curve, originally used in Classical times but surviving in use during the Early Medieval period.
- Rondel - also called a roundel, this was a single edged dagger which had rondels - flat metal circles - for both its pommel and guard. It was worn by a variety of people from knights to merchants. The blade was usually more than 12 inches long. There were also four-edged variants, the blade having a cruciform cross-section.
- Sabre - usually a single-edged, curved blade with a hand guard. Sabres originally arrived in Europe with the Magyars in the 10th century.
- Shamshir - a sabre of Persian ancestry. The one striking feature about a shamshir was the radical curve of the blade, sometimes even up to 15 degrees. As such, it was used mostly for slashing, as the curve made stabbing difficult.
- Shortsword - in medieval terms, a 'shortsword' was a one-handed sword short only in comparison to a longsword. The word was rarely used and is something of a neologism.
- Scimitar - a curved, single-edged sword, used mostly in North-Africa and Arabia. It dates back to almost 2 millennia B.C. during the 18th Egyptian Dynasty, when the first mention of curved blades is made. It is primarily used for slashing enemies.
- Stiletto - a small, straight dagger. It had no edge, only an extremely sharp point. Used primarily by infiltrators to carry out assassinations, being light,slim and easy to conceal. However, it was almost worthless for any other purpose.
- Sword Breaker - could be a term for any weapon designed to break swords, but usually a long and sturdy dagger with slots on one side. By catching an opponent's blade in a slot, and twisting the Sword Breaker, the user could in theory break his opponent's weapon. How well this worked in practice is not certain.
- Zweihänder - also called a bihänder, or bidenhänder, this was an extremely large two-handed sword. Its heyday was the 16th century, but it originated in Germany during the 14th century. The weapon as a whole might be 5 or 6 feet long, and usually had a cross guard.
Personal Ranged Weapons
- Arbalest - although this word could mean any crossbow, it more commonly meant a crossbow-like weapon with a steel prod, which allowed for a greater draw force. Also called an arcubalist or abblast.
- Crossbow - a bow, called a 'prod', mounted on a stock. The string was drawn back - either unaided or by a mechanical mechanism - and then released by a trigger; the weapon fired arrow-like projectiles called bolts. Crossbows fired slowly but had great draw force. They were often considered unchivalrous.
- Dart - darts have been present in European warfare for a long time. Some were used in the Middle Ages, but they generally played little part in battle. Sometimes darts were fashioned for special purposes: for example, certain Byzantine heavy cavalry would throw specially made, 12 inch long, barbed, lead-weighted and feathered darts as they charged.
- Longbow - famously used by the Welsh and then the English, this was a bow of great length - perhaps 6 feet - requiring great strength and a great deal of practice to be used effectively. The longbow could be long-ranged, and it could be accurate, but it could not be both at the same time. A variety of arrowheads were used for different purposes.
- Staff Sling - also called a stave sling or fustibale. Although the sling was obsolete during the medieval period, the staff sling was still used during sieges. A sling on the end of a staff - up to 6 feet long - could hurl heavy stones great distances, utilising a lever effect.
(those generally not associated with European Medieval society)
- Kusarigama - More of a composite weapon, it composed of a scythe with a flail attached to the bottom end. A user would use the flail to knock the opponent off balance, and then rush forward to bring the scythe edge into play.
- Naginata - similiar to the glaive, a curved blade mounted on a wooden shaft. While naginata could both slash and stab, slashing usually held more power due to the leverage provided by the pole and the shape of the blade. The length of the haft was around 5 to 7 feet, while the blade was around 2-3 feet long.
- Qiang - a weapon of Chinese make, it was essentially a cheap, mass-producible spear. However, one striking feature was the red horse-hair tassel situated just below the blade. The spear was a strong but flexible wood, which bends to absorb impact preventing breakage. The bending motion combined with the blurring effect of the tassle made the spear tip very hard to follow.
- Tachibo - a Bo with a slot that could allow a Tachi (blade) to slide into, thus creating a Spear.
- Yari - the Japanese longspear, recognized by its straight and long blade. Yari were extremely durable. The shaft was made from hardwood and covered in bamboo strips, and then held together by metal rings. Yari varied from one meter long for a foot soldier to about 2.5 meters for a mounted combatant and even 6 meters for use in a phalanx-like formation.
- Bō - the Japanese name for a quarterstaff.
- Kanabō - a staff composed of heavy wood or metal and covered with metal at the striking end. Few could wield it due to their extreme weight, but a skilled wielder could use it to cleave heads and smash horses' legs. Also known as a Tetsubo.
- Lathi - an Indian bamboo staff, of varying length, usually (but not always) tipped with a metal blunt at one end. Usually used to incapacitate opponents.
- Manriki-gusari - a ninja's weapon, consisting of a thick chain with lead weights at the end. The user either hurled them at the target or whirled it around, causing the weights to slam into the enemy, and thereby incapacitating him. It could be easily folded up and concealed.
- Nunchaku - not a dedicated martial weapon, it consisted of two lengths of wood joined by a thick chain. Exponente wielded it in a manner similar to a mace, but a lot faster due to its light weight.
- Tonfa - The tonfa consisted of two parts, a handle with a knob, and perpendicular to the handle, a shaft or board that lies along the hand and forearm. The shaft was usually 20–24 inches long.
- Chuttuval - lit. 'coiled sword', also known as the urumi. An Indian weapon, something between a short whip and a sword; a flexible band of steel 3/4 to 1 inch in width, and perhaps 4 to 5 foot in length, mounted on a handle. Difficult to control. Apparently multiple bands can be mounted on the same handle for an even more complex weapon.
- Dao - a catch-all Chinese word to refer to all curved swords developed for the purpose of slashing.
- Jian - a traditional Chinese weapon, it was a long, straight sword. There a thin blade allowed it to bend. A jian was difficult to wield, as its effectiveness depended on the user's finesse and agility, rather than brute force, much like a rapier.
- Jitte - Similiar to the sai; a light, dull sword with a tsuba (outblade) designed to catch opponent's swords. It was roughly the size of a wakizashi, and was wielded if the wielder wanted to disarm, not kill. As such, it was commonly used by law-enforcement officers.
- Katana - feudal Japanese blade. Perhaps 70-90 cm long and remarkably sharp and strong, despite being very thin. Difficult to master but extremely effective. Single-edged. The katana held a special significance for samurai, who felt that they were incomplete without it, whether they actually used it or not - much like a European knight's relationship with his 'arming sword'.
- Katar - an Indian punching dagger or sword. Unusually, the grip is mounted horizontally to the blade, so the blade sits on the user's knuckles and thrusts are made with a punching motion (see also the Pata).
- Ninjatō/Ninjaken - the type of sword a ninja would have carried, a cut down version/variant of the Katana and Wakizashi, and usually not made of folding metal like the katana. Straight bladed.
- Pata - an Indian concept, a little like a scaled-up Katar (see above); a blade of 10 to 44 inches length was mounted on the end of a gauntlet. As with the Katar, the user was able to thrust by using a punching motion.
- Sai - The sai's basic form is that of an unsharpened dagger, with two long, unsharpened projections (tsuba) attached to the handle. It is originally a purely defensive weapon, used to trap an opponent's sword between the prongs, and attempt to disarm him. A sai is basically a jitte (see above) with two tsuba instead of one.
- Talwar - an Indian sword, similar in shape to a Shamshir but usually with a wider blade.
- Tessen - a fan which had metal spokes, sharpened to deadly points. They were designed to look like regular fans, and were used in places where swords and other overt weapons were not allowed.
- Wakizashi - a smaller version of a katana, it was commonly worn as a sidearm by katana-wielding samurai. In the Feudal era, a technique comsisting of using a katana and a wakizashi in tandem (collectively knowm as the 'daisho', meaning long(katana) and short(wakizashi)) was developed.
- Zanbato - A huge, heavy sword, with no finger guard or noticeable hilt. Used as more of a bludgeoning weapon, downing foes with brute force. Two handed.
Personal Ranged Weapons
- Chakram - an Indian throwing weapon; a flat metal ring, usually 5 to 12 inches in diameter and with a sharpened outer edge. This weapon is frequently featured in modern fantasy and martial arts media, where it usually appears with a larger diameter and is often solely a melee weapon.
- Shuriken - a Japanese term for any concealed throwing weapon. Although modern culture is most familiar with the 'throwing star' form of the shuriken, shuriken could be any easily concealed sharp object, fashioned from a wide range of objects (such as needles, nails, coins or chisels), or made from scratch. Shuriken were usually used for incapacitation or distraction.
- Yumi - a Japanese term use to refer to bows, which included the Daikyu (Longbow) and the Hankyu (Shortbow).
A number of the weapons listed above were converted agricultural implements - scythes, pitchforks et cetera - and, given the poor understanding of logistics during the Medieval period, commanders were often forced to improvise. The Byzantine general Belisarius, for example, was supposedly forced to equip some of his infantry with park fenceposts and large metal platters in lieu of spears and shields before his last battle (he won).
Moving away from a purely military context, almost anything might serve as a weapon in an emergency. During a tavern brawl mugs might serve as missiles and chair-legs as clubs, a civilian rider might have to resort to his whip, if an urban population revolted they might well throw cobblestones and tiles, and a noble would be forced to use the first thing that came to hand against an assassin; Julius Caesar is supposed to have had only a stylus to defend himself when he was assassinated (Caesar was not Medieval, but the principle is the same).
Miscellaneous thrown objects might include simple stone or metal balls, flammable objects, large arrow-like objects, beehives, carcasses, or unsuccessful spies. Siege engines - especially the larger, more expensive types - were sometimes named. King Edward I, for example, possessed thirteen trebuchets; some were named to intimidate ('War-Wolf') and others were named with a certain black humour ('Vicar' and 'Parson' - presumably playing on the trebuchet's ability to usher souls into the next world).
- Ballista - this classical weapon - a kind of giant crossbow - was occasionally used in the Middle Ages, but it was expensive and complex, and so was generally replaced by the onager.
- Battering Ram - at its simplest, a log which soldiers batter gates with. More advanced rams might be slung from a frame or placed on rollers. Often rams were protected with roofs and side-screens.
- Catapult - this appears to have been a catch-all term for any siege engine that launched projectiles.
- Onager - the onager used a sling attached to a throwing arm to launch a solid projectile. Later onagers might have fired several projectiles from a fixed bowl. 'Onager' appears to have been interchangeable with 'mangonel'. Onagers used torsion bundles to throw their projectile(s).
- Siege Hook - a large metal hook, if strong enough, could be mounted on a long pole, or attached to a strong rope, and used to physically pull down the stones of the defender's wall. These saw little use and were probably only useful against minor defences which could be easily taken by other methods as well.
- Siege Tower - a tower on wheels, usually constructed at the scene of the siege and built higher than the besieged walls. Siege towers could carry archers, and a drawbridge might be lowered onto the walls to allow troops access.
- Trebuchet - unlike the onager and ballista, the trebuchet used a counterweight acting on a lever to hurl much larger projectiles. Trebuchets appear to have had a range of about 300 yards - within skilled bowshot. Large trebuchets were slow to operate, launching perhaps two projectiles per hour.
Miscellaneous Siege Techniques
It should be noted that, until the arrival of gunpowder, the balance of technology and logistics usually favoured the defender.
Various unpleasant substances might be poured on attackers through purpose built holes, or simply over the walls. Boiling oil in particular would have been expensive, and oil was a limited resource. Defenders would more commonly employ cheaper alternatives, such as boiling water, burning pitch or heated sand.
This was a ladder assault on besieged walls. Attackers carrying out an escalade suffered heavy casualties from missile weapons, boiling oil et cetera; if they reached the battlements, they would be outnumbered. Often an escalade was not attempted aggressively, but stealthily, at night, in order to infiltrate and open the gates.
If the besiegers faced a moat or ditch, they might attempt to bridge it by filling it - with stones, bundles of sticks, earth or corpses - often as a prelude to the deployment of rams, or to an escalade.
Greek fire was a weapon made using a secret formula, deployed by the Byzantine empire. Greek fire stuck to things, and water did not put it out. Objects could be soaked in Greek fire and then launched by siege engines, or it could be combined with a metal siphon to create a primitive flamethrower. The Byzantines also supposedly had a variation which was ignited by contact with sunlight; this could be smeared on enemy siege engines by spies during the night, with predictable results when day came!
Sapping was also called undermining or simply mining; besiegers might dig tunnels under besieged walls to cause a breach. Gunpowder was not used until the very late Middle Ages, but the engineers might build the tunnel using wooden supports which could then be burned to cause the tunnel to collapse. The besieged might countermine, digging into the tunnel themselves to kill the engineers, or digging underneath the initial tunnel before it reached their walls and attempting to collapse that tunnel.
Fortifications often had one or more inconspicuous or concealed secondary gates. The defenders could come outside the walls using one of these in an attempt to catch the attackers off guard - making a sortie. Depending on the forces available, the defenders might aim simply to drive the enemy back and destroy some of their siege equipment, or might hope to actually lift the siege entirely. Sorties were also made in co-ordination with relieving forces.
Unless a relieving army was on the way or the attackers themselves lacked supplies, often the simplest option was to attempt to starve the defenders out.
- myArmoury.com - a resource for historic arms and armour collectors
- The Book of the Sword by Richard Francis Burton, pub. 1884
- Warfare of the Medieval era - Wikipedia Category
- Weapons Glossary at ShadowedRealm.com (Medieval History Community)