Castle fortressesIn times of peace, castles were home to important rulers or wealthy feudal lordsand their families, servants and vassals. At these times, only a small group of soldiers was needed to guard the castle. In times of war, however, castles became hives of military activity as the ruler or lord called on his supporters to defend the castle by supplying him with foot soldiers, armour, weapons and often horses.Knights and soldiersIn medieval Europe, knightswere obliged to fight for their lord in times of war as well as recruit others to fight for him. Some recruits were professional soldiers, men of the upper social class. They might be the younger sons of noble families, wanting to improve their standing through military service. Such soldiers were often called men-at-arms. Other fighting recruits were commoners or peasants. These men usually came straight from the fields or towns to fight. They often had no formal training and fought as foot soldiers because they could not afford horses. Their weapons and armour were much simpler than those of knights and men-at-arms.Military trainingTo stay fit and trained for war, knights fought jousts. Often these were public spectacles. Heavily armoured knights charged each other on horseback holding wooden lances ahead of them. Sometimes a long wooden fence, called a tilt, separated the charging horses. The idea was to knock an opponent off his horse. Source 3 A motte-and-bailey castleSource 4 A stone castle with a keepSource 5 A concentric castlekeyconcept:Continuity and change270oxford big ideas humanities and social sciences 8western australian curriculum271chapter 9medieval europe 9C What developments influenced life in medieval Europe?DRAFT
Source 6 An artist’s impression of an attacking army laying siege to a castleThe camp of the army laying siegeA ballista was like a king-sized crossbow that fired arrow-like bolts of metal.External walls (up to four metres thick) from which defenders on the battlements could fire weapons or drop boiling oilA crenel (the open section of a crenellation) provided an opening through which to attack.A portcullis was a reinforced gate, usually made of iron, operated by ropes and pulleys.A merlon (the closed section of the crenellation) provided protection from enemy arrows.A murder hole allowed rocks and missiles to be dropped onto enemies as they entered the castle gatehouse.External walls were thick to withstand the impact of missiles and direct hits by siege engines wheeled in close to the walls.Skilled longbow archers could fire arrows great distances every five seconds.A scaling ladderA battering ram (a large tree trunk, sharpened to a point) was wheeled in, its operators protected by an overhead wooden shelter covered in wet animal skins. It was used to repeatedly ram a gate or section of wall.
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