A (Late) Word for Wednesday

(I'm sorry I got this post up so late. I ended up with a full day of landscaping for a private client on my plate, so I pretty much had time to eat dinner before it was time to get ready and go to Jiu-Jitsu class. But there's still an hour and fifteen minutes left of Wednesday from where I'm sitting and I'm going to make it count.)

I had the hardest time picking a word for today. I got to flip all the way to M in my Webster's 1828 dictionary and there were just so many fun words to choose between. There was maffle, which means "to stammer" with a little note that looked exactly like this: [Not in use]. There was mackerel, which I thought was a type of fish, but is actually a noun from an old French words that means "a pander or pimp." There was a host of others, of course, but I finally decided on one.

Mangonel - n, an engine formerly used for throwing stones and battering walls.

The word itself is derived from a Greco-Latin word, manganon, that means "engine of war." There seems to be some debate as to whether the engine referred to was a specific one or whether it was a general term for catapults. In any case, all the sources I found (during my oh-so-in-depth, twenty-minute Google search) agree that it was used during the medieval period.
Wikipedia, my other trusty source when conducting speedy research for basic facts, says this, "Mangonel had poorer accuracy than a trebuchet (which was introduced later, shortly before the discovery and widespread usage of gunpowder). The mangonel threw projectiles on a lower trajectory and at a higher velocity than the trebuchet with the intention of destroying walls, rather than hurling projectiles over them. It was more suited to field battles."
It shot these projectiles, which ranged from rocks to fire pots and other less than savory things, from a bowl-shaped bucket at the end of the arm. It could launch these things up to 1,300 feet. From what I've read, it's primary use was to break down a castle's or city's walls another other infrastructure, not to kill. It's strikes were powerful but unpredictable and so it was better suited for non-moving targets.

I'm going to quote Wiki again because Thursday is fast approaching. "The mangonel was loaded by lowering a rope with a hook at its end, this hook was tied to another rope connected to a "pulling" system to pull the rope and lower the main rod. Once the rod was lowered a few workers were responsible for the attachment of a sling where the projectile is placed. When the mangonel was loaded the leader gave the order to release the main rod, and at the same time several men (usually around 20) pulled the ropes attached to the counter-weight. If the crew was well trained, it was possible to control whether the projectile traveled in a low or high trajectory, but if the crew was not well trained then existed the risk of the projectile killing friendly troops or even the crew itself."

You didn't know you were going to get a crash course in medieval siege machines today, did you? ;) Well, for better or worse, now you have. And I have...*looks at clock* less than twenty minutes to wrap this up. (Am I the only glacially slow blogger out there??) So onto the story, or rather the character/scene, we go.

"Sometimes I wondered what it would be like to be the enemy soldiers who had to deal with the things I prepared for them. Some thought, even expected, me to be some manner of magician. I built the mangonel. I filled it's arm and watched it fling some horror toward whatever castle or city chanced to be before us. Some would call me a wretch for filling the fire pots and setting the burning sand inside the sling. They would despise me further if they knew how often I placed corpses into the mangonel's arm to spread fear and disease among those we attacked. Perhaps they would be right to despise me. Perhaps I am a wretch - I fear all men are - but I fight because I must. This is the one service I can render and I am compelled to do so. Compelled by the debt I cannot repay."


  1. Thanks to my two years of extensive research into medieval warfare (thanks to the hard work of Ensemble Studios), I'm pretty sure your pictures are of trebuchets. Trebuchets were much more graceful tools of mass destruction than mangonels. See below. http://www.flickr.com/photos/firrs/2412602609/

  2. That could very well be. Like I said, I didn't do any in-depth research; only a quick Google search. I just used the pictures that were on the Wikipedia page for the mangonel. So, I defer to your expertise :)

    Btw, since you have so much research to draw from, you should see if you can do anything to make the Wikipedia page more accurate.


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