Evolution of siege techniques

From the Catholic Monarchs to Vauban.

By José Manuel Pañeda Ruiz.

Perhaps fortification is man's oldest job. From the beginning of their existence, men felt the need to keep from the many dangers facing him and what can be better than finding inaccessible places and improving them in different ways for better defense and safety.In search of that safety many methods will emerge over time, from the simple protection of a cave to the building of the complex walled enclosures in bastion fortifications.

There is nowadays a great ignorance of most of the public about them, perhaps due to its complicated design and terminology. But even greater is the lack of dissemination of the techniques used in taking and capturing such defensive works. That is why the objective of this work is to analyze the evolution of the siege techniques of fortifications and their evolution before such threats, chronologically focused on the period from the Catholic Monarchs to Vauban.

Many studies have focused on the role of modern fortifications in Spain (Cámara, 1989; De la Fuente, 1994; Diaz, 2004), however, in relation to the topic presented in this paper, and particularly in the case we are dealing with, the treatment of modern poliorcetics has been reduced to a minimum (Saez, 2010).

For the writing of this study, as for its technical part, we have basically resort to the treaty of the 18th century Peter of Lucuze, "Principles of Fortification," which has been followed for the presentation of the most popular siege methods in its time. In that work we can find a summary of the necessary means to carry out each of these missions, as well as an exhaustive description of the practical implementation of it.

In order to get a complete view of the stages and development of the fortifications that were produced over the years, we have consulted the works of Diaz, "The bastion fortification" and Professor Cámara, "Fortifications of Philip II"; for the study of the earliest uses of artillery and the means of attack, we have followed the work "Artillery and Fortifications in the Kingdom of Castile during the reign of Isabel the Catholic" published by the Ministry of Defense.

The paper is structured in two parts. The first is dedicated to those threats that fortifications had to face from the employment of artillery in the field and their evolution.

In the second part, there is a presentation of the bastion fortification, finishing this section with the analysis of the siege techniques used against such defenses.

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Author: José Manuel Pañeda Ruiz. - José Manuel Pañeda Ruiz is a Military Historian and Assistant Teacher at the Institute of Military History and Culture in Spain. 

Paper hosted and reproduced with permission from the author.



José Manuel Pañeda Ruiz

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