Tension Catapults - First Catapults Created by the Greeks

The first catapults built by the Greeks were tension catapults, devices very much like a bow and arrow (or crossbow) although much larger.

Tension catapults launched short heavy arrows called "bolts" at great speed and considerable distance. These weapons were powerful but their size and weight made these catapults a real challenge to move and it took a long time to reload the bolt so the weapon could be fired again.

As the name implies, the "power source" for these catapults was tension created by bending back a bow. The bow was generallty made out of wood or animal horn. Ballista, gastrophete, and oxybeles are some of the different names used to refer to these tension catapults.

Although the bolts could kill or severely injure several enemies at a time, the bolts were not effective against the stone walls used by castles and other medieval fortresses. The solution to this problem was seen in torsion catapults, the next step in catapult evolution. However, tension catapults still had their place in medieval warfare as an anti-personnel device.