How The Trabuco Terrorized The Middle Ages

The Magic and Madness of Medieval Times

Everyone, from the staunchest history buff to the most casual scholar, has a mental image of what the Middle Ages were like. This is no doubt due to the fascinating uniqueness of this time period, an era when epic tales of knightly chivalry and romantic courtship took place in picturesque scenes dotted with castles.

Of course, beyond the fairy-tale nobility, medieval times make us think of brutal battles waged without modern technology. Swinging maces and swords may have dominated the popular imagination, but it’s the trabuco – an ancient war machine like no other – that truly embodies the war-like spirit of the age according to

How the Trabuco Won Wars

Much like the catapult, the trabuco was a fearsome contraption designed to propel a ballast over a castle wall or behind enemy lines. The trabuco distinguished itself by featuring a lever and a more elongated arm from which a heavy object hung suspended on It’s tempting to think of a huge, spherical stone like the type typically shown in cartoons being hurled over a wall, but many other types of ballast were used. Although science was in its infancy, the concept of disease was beginning to be well-understood, and everything from spoiled food to dead animals might be flung by the trabuco. This was a terrifying sight, particularly in the time of the plague. According to, soldiers operating the trabuco could also use flammable materials such as tar to quickly send fire into the heart of a stronghold without burning the trabuco itself. It was a far cry from the napalm used today, but it was an ingenious precursor.

The Modern Fate of an Ancient Machine

The awe-inspiring trabuco fell out of favor for a number of reasons. One was simply the advent of more modern technologies that wiped out other medieval weapons. A more specific factor was the cumbersome nature of the trabuco. It was at times built on the site of a battle and was difficult to transport. While it may seem inconvenient and overly large today, this beast of battle was a prized possession of medieval warmongers.

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