The Ancient Mechanics Of War, The Trabuco

The trabuco is an ancient catapult, originally invented as a weapon of war in Portugal and in medieval England. They were assembled outdoors and built on wheels to travel in tow with the provisions, ammunition and other equipment, accompanied by soldiers on horses. The main purpose was to destroy the enemy’s masonry walls. Trabucos were used exclusively whenever war was imminent; kingdoms launched counterattacks, while hiding behind heavily reinforced masonry walls.

As opposing armies approached the targeted castle, moats were drawn in and armies launched fire, while perched high above. With the trabuco, the device was loaded with oversized stones, which were then propelled over and through the defensive structures. Due to force behind the trabuco, the stones effectively crushed entire walls in a single hit. Depending on the target, sometimes other materials were used instead of stones; this included flaming arrows, dead animal carcasses and molten tar.


Today, the term, “trabuco” is still used in Brazil to describe any type of large caliber shotgun, gibbet or revolver. When talking about medieval manual weapons of destruction, the phrase, “balancing trabuco,” is often used to differentiate from another similar device, the traction trabuco. Although, its origins are in ancient times, the mechanics behind the trabuco are very advanced. It wasn’t simply a matter of using large stones are a method of brute force. The stones were projected as a direct result of precisely balanced, gravitational energy. The trabuco worked in conjunction with weight transference and load bearing capabilities, which combined to form a basic form of kinetic energy. Builders weren’t scientists, they just applied basic principles of velocity and mass.

Trabuco can be thought of as evolved slingshots, the motion is the same, but the results weren’t haphazard. The trabuco was a finely tuned projectile, carefully constructed to hit targets with pinpoint accuracy. Now, mechanical engineers can create exact copies of this ancient device, using wood, PVC pipes, and titanium screws. Of course, trabucos aren’t used in the war anymore; now they’re made for public display, at outdoor learning exhibits or at Medieval fairs and shows according to

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