Sieges were an omnipresent, key feature in the wars of the past. This book provides a detailed and lively account of sieges, focusing on the period stretching from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century, but with a few forays into ancient times. Villages and cities were walled up against the arrival of an enemy, for the best defence was precisely to close down. If the enemy could not exploit the element of surprise, there was nothing left to do but lay siege. The author reviews the tactics put in place by the besiegers and the besieged and describes the means at their disposal: wall-breaking engines, catapults, artillery, flaming projectiles, excavated tunnels, and so on. But sieges also involved psychological warfare, including threats and mockery between enemies who were close enough to hear each other, as the besiegers were directly under the eyes of the besieged. Using a vast array of examples, this book provides a phenomenology of siege tactics – but also of everyday life, both inside and outside the walls.
Duccio Balestracci formerly taught Medieval History at the University of Siena.