"The Ballista. This was the ancient world's howitzer."
- Peter van Rossum, Alexander the Great expert.
The Ballista was a siege engine invented by the Ancient Greeks, a supersized killing machine. It was the Special Weapon of Alexander the Great.
The Ballista resembled an enlarged Gastraphetes set at an angle to the base. It had two torsion springs (ropes made from animal sinew) attached to the bow arms, which in turn were attached to the bowstring.
- Range: 500 yards
- Ammo: 4" bolts or stones
- Mag: Single shot
The Ballista was drawn with hand winches, twisting the already taut torsion springs to create far greater power could otherwise be achieved. This resulted in faster and further-launched projectiles.
Following the development of the torsion spring, the first ballista was allegedly built by Dionysius of Syracuse around 400 BC. It was not until Philip II of Macedon and later his son Alexander the Great that the Ballista gained widespread recognition. It was later adopted by the Romans, who further adapted the weapon (which eventually resulted in the creation of the Scorpion). The weapon was so ahead of its time, it survived well into the Middle Ages before more advanced siege engines finally rendered it obsolete.
Elephants in South East Asia were large enough to place a Ballista on their back. This made the Ballista more mobile while also allowing the Elephant to protect the siege weapon from enemy soldiers.
The primary reason why Catapults and Trebuchets overshadowed the Ballista was due to the former being able to launch much heavier projectiles; which can do more damage to enemy fortifications.
Classical and Medieval China used a similar weapon known as the Multiprod Crossbow. They came in various sizes, with the larger Ox Bows being used as siege weapons. The Mongol Empire used these siege weapons effectively across Asia. However Europe, which had sturdier castle designs, were more resistant to these Ballistas compared to Asian forts and castles.
- Carthage frequently used pots containing snakes or scorpions as a weapon to demoralize Roman armies. Hannibal Barca would use his Ballistas in battle to propel the pots at the Romans.