1902 Encyclopedia > Battering Ram

Battering Ram

BATTERING RAM (Aries), a military engine used before the invention of gunpowder, for beating down the walls of besieged fortresses. It consisted of a long heavy beam of timber, armed at the extremity with iron fashioned something like the head of a ram. In its simplest form the beam was carried in the hands of the soldiers, who assailed the walls with it by main force. The improved ram was composed of a longer beam, in some cases extending to 120 feet, shod with iron at one end, and suspended, either by the middle or from two points, from another beam laid across two posts. This is the kind described by Josephus as having been used at the siege of Jerusalem (B. J., iii. 7, 19). It was covered over with a roof, shell, or screen of boards (called the testudo) to protect the men employed in working it from the stones, darts, and other missiles discharged by the besieged from the walls. It was also provided with wheels, which greatly facilitated its operations. A hundred soldiers at a time, and sometimes even a greater number, were employed to work it, and the parties were relieved in constant succession. Josephus says that no wall could resist the continued application of the ram.

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