Throughout the history of warfare, humans have always found innovative (and sometimes ghastly) ways of keeping invaders away. Most of the time, a simple stout wall was enough but when that failed, the inhabitants got creative and came up with some of the most bizarre and ingenious tactics and weapons one could possibly think of. Keep reading to learn of five such examples.
When the invading Mongols found it difficult to breach the surrounding walls of the city of Caffa in 1346, they resorted to using their mounds of piling bodies to get the job done. This was one of the earliest instances of using biological weaponry to take down the enemy. The Mongol army was hit pretty hard by the Black Death so instead of burying their people, they flung them over the walls, hoping that the stench would be enough to take out everyone. Well, it worked, just not how they expected. Instead, they merely spread the deadly disease that eventually reached the rest of Europe.
During moments when oil and water were too valuable to waste during a war, the defending besiegers made use of an unexpected material: sand. Alexander the Great and his army were taken by surprise when the defenders in the city of Tyre heated up fine sand until it glowed a bright shade of red. Once launched, Alexander’s men found themselves covered in the burning sand which found its way into every nook and cranny of their armor. Forced to strip down their armor, the soldiers became easy pickings for the archers on the walls.
Sometime in the 10th century, the British city of Chester was at war with the invading Vikings. They had the upper hand and managed to slow down the enemy a few times who in turn, found creative ways to counteract the defenders’ attacks. First, they threw stones, but the Vikings protected themselves with shields. Next was hot, boiling beer that passed through the wooden shields and burned the Vikings’ skin, but they used animal hides so that the beer slid to the side. Finally, the defenders collected bees from the city and hurled it at the Vikings who were completely helpless as the angry bees stung them.
After King John declared the Magna Carta civil rights to be invalid, those hit hardest, the barons or lower class, rose up in rebellion, resulting in the First Barons’ War. The rebels managed to take over one of John’s castles in Rochester, which led to several failed attempts by the king to reclaim it. At his wits end, he turned his focus to pigs and ordered his engineers to dig beneath the walls of the keep and then use “forty of the fattest pigs” to burn through the support beams of the tunnel. The end result was a fire so great that it took out both the tunnel and part of the tower above it, forcing the barons to surrender.
5. Exploding Mill Wheels
In 1552, the Ottoman army attempted to invade the Castle of Eger in Hungary. Despite the castle’s good defensive position on a hill, they were still outnumbered by the tens of thousands of Ottoman troops who managed to weaken the castle’s outer walls. That’s when a man named Gergely Bornemissza constructed a makeshift weapon using a mill wheel, heavy stones that were used to crush grain into flour and gunpowder. The explosion proved to be deadly for the Ottomans who were hit with shards of burning wood and stones.
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