Museum of Ancient Inventions: Siege Ladder

Siege Ladder, Rome, 537 CE

The articulated movable siege ladder, usually referred to simply as the siege ladder, is one of a class of weapons used in offensive siege warfare. It is the simplest, and probably the oldest, of the offensive siege craft. The siege ladder allows attacking soldiers to cross moats or other blockades around castle walls. From the protected platform at the top of the rope ladder, soldiers may fire down upon defending soldiers within the castle. The siege ladder also provided offensive armies with a method of gaining entrance to a castle without first knocking down the castle walls. The first documented use of a siege ladder was in 537 CE in Rome. It then disappeared from the history books for many centuries, reappearing in accounts of the llth Century Crusades. We hypothesize that siege ladders were used infrequently because of the difficulty involved in transporting these heavy and bulky vehicles over rough terrain.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Kristen Lindberg ’98 and Eliana Sugarman ’98

We obtained our original picture from the guidebook to the Mechanical Marvels Exhibition. The diagram proved to be illogical (it wouldn’t have worked as drawn!), so we had to make many modifications. These modifications include a set of parallel linkages, which allowed the platform to stay horizontal as opposed to tipping the men off to their deaths! Because of these various changes, our final model varies in many ways from the diagram. Greg served as a fine guide in the machine shop as we worked mainly with woods and some metals. Each step brought on different questions concerning the original diagram, and many times we had to stop and redraw the illustration. Lessons were learned on the manipulation of mechanical devices as well as how to find our way around the machine shop.


1) Funcken, Fred & Funcken, Liliane. (1972) Arms andUniforms I: Ancient Egypt to the 18th Century. Ward LockLimited: London.

2) Warry, John. (1980) Warfare in the ClassicalWorld. St. Martin’s Press: New York.

3) Koch, H.W. (1978) Medieval Warfare. DorsetPress.

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