Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Most annoying!

I'm sitting here trying to look up quick information on trebuchets and the improvements that Muslims made to their design when the technology reached them from China... I need to know when they reached Arabia, when the improvements were made and when Europeans were first exposed to trebuchet technology... Because I *know* I've read before that trebuchets were not used as defensive weapons on top of city walls until Saladin took back Jerusalem from the European Crusaders. And I also *know* I've read that Europeans were not exposed to trebuchets until they saw the Muslims using them in the Crusades and that it took French engineers about 40 years to figure out how they worked and how to replicate the technology in a reliable way.

All I can find on the 'net are wiki articles and information on their use and role in the video game Age of Empires, all of which seem to be inaccurate since it says that the technology reached Europe in the 6th century and the technology was developed in China in the 6th century. This is most annoying as I'm trying to finish my paper and my brain is slowly ceasing to function. I'm too tired to keep looking, so I suppose I'll have to leave that out of my paper. Backwater invaders, the Almoravids, are portrayed as using trebuchet in their siege of Valencia in 1099 in the movie "El Cid." I'm supposed to point out all the historical inaccuracies I caught in watching the film. And I'm fairly certain that that is one of them... but since I can't find a *thing* to back me up, I'll leave it out.


ilana said...

This is a bit late since your paper was due a few days ago, but I looked through my handful of relevent textbooks and couldn't find any references to the use of the trebouchet. Granted, my field of study wasn't specifically medieval history, but I thought my books on the Crusades might have some reference, especially if it's named specifically in primary sources at the Battle of Such-and-Such. The only thing I can think of is, see if you can find any European sources if you come upon something similar in future assignments. I'm sure you know this, but most campaigns had a monk/chronicler or six to take notes for them, so that mightn't be a bad place to look if you can actually find references to names either in your own textbooks or in other sources where something is quoted.

Rachael said...

Thanks for looking for the information for me! That was really nice of you!

I remember doing some quick research on the 'net about it during my Medieval History 2 class around the time that "Kingdom of Heaven" was released in theaters because someone I know (not in the class) said that none of them should have had trebuchets during Saladin's Seige of Jerusalem and I *knew* that was wrong. I'll just have to dig out my textbooks from that class at some point because I know the info is in them somewhere (only question is where!).

ilana said...

I bumped into my favorite history professor at the post office yesterday and asked if he had any thoughts, and explained that you'd had to watch El Cid for a class and pick out its many problems. His response is that it's prety much impossible to pick a date of origin for the use of the trebouchet, partly due to an influx of foreign influence across Europe at the time.
Now, since someone appears to have suggested that the Muslims had access to something similar *before* this time period, I would say it's possible. If -- and I'm working with what I remember from my History 421 -- the Chinese were its originators, it's possible that the Muslims took such technology back to the Middle East with them. Chinese history has this lovely little rebellion called the An Lu-Shan Rebellion which was conducted in the western part of China during the late 8th Century (Tang Dynasty, if that helps at all); the rebellion was encouraged by Muslims who, as part of their fee (and due, I suspect, to the confusion), took papermakers, chemists, and engineers back to the Middle East with them. Among the technologies taken were paper (duh!), gunpowder, and (possibly) things like the trebouchet, the use of which spread to Europe from there.
At that time, the Europeans were still pretty backward; the Muslims experimented with primitive bronze canon, though I don't think they were used with quite as much success until the siege of Constantinople in 1453, which was when it finally fell and didn't get back up -- the last Palaeologos emperor supposedly disappeared or was killed during the siege, which meant that the line of succession was also cut off since he didn't have any male heirs. And even then, there were some engineering problems due to the size of the stone shot and the angle from which they had to shoot, making it more difficult to use a bronze canon of that size successfully -- stone shot weighing close to 1200 lbs must be pretty nasty to work with! Anyway.. Dr. Hanak suggested that if you don't have access to primary sources, you might be able to fall back on a reputable encyclopedia like Britannica.

Rachael said...

Thanks again, Ilana! ;D Your information is very helpful!