The Trabuco; The Ancient Menacing Cousin of the Catapult

     Imagine for just a moment that you are a medieval warrior standing along the castle wall, fighting the invading horde with hundreds of your brethren at your side. Suddenly, however, a hulking shape catches your eye from the battlefield. You hope and pray in that split second that when your eyes connect that it isn’t what you presume it to be; but it is, and the enemy soldiers are already loading the weapon. You barely have time to yell the warning before the first boulder rips into your fortress wall and sends comrade and foe alike spiraling from the walkway.

Inspired by the design of the catapult, the look of the Trabuco alone was used as a form of psychological warfare. The long balancing beam, for which the weapon takes its extended name, the balancing Trabuco, could be seen on castle walls, or being brought onto battlefields from long distances. This even allegedly resulted in some armies retreating before the weapon was even fired. The Trabuco was deeply romanticized in the medieval era, resulting in many kings and rulers developing their own specialized version of the weapon. Richard the Lionheart employed two Trabuco’s during the attack on Acre in 1611 which he himself dubbed ‘Bad Neighbor’ and ‘God’s Own Catapult‘.

The weapon itself was passed to Europe, where it would gain it’s most historical infamy, by way of the original inventors of the Trabuco, China. During a Mongolian invasion it is believed that Chinese Commander Jurchen Jin designed the mechanism to prevent the opposing army from capturing a set of cities. It was then that two Persian engineers were called upon to develop further Trabuco’s for the Chinese. In six hundred B.C. nomadic Russian traders would bring the Trabuco to Europe where it would see hundreds of years of use in rival kingdom scrimmages as well as the crusades.

The balancing mechanism works in such a way on the weapon that when the operational end of the beam is pulled down it launches the projectile held by the sling on the other end. This projectile has been recorded as being large boulders for the bringing down of walls, a variety of different objects in a shotgun like manner by the Brazilians, and even plague infected bodies. With the invention of gunpowder, and subsequently the cannon, Trabuco’s proved obsolete and eventually vanished from battle all together.

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