History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

How long did it take to build various siege engines? I understand this can vary widely based on the size of the engine etc., but I'd be interested in somehow average values. Let's say a stationary trebuchet, a normal siege tower and a ballista. What would be the time (man-hours or something) to build each of these?

I'm primarily interested in the (early) middle ages, but ancient time or renaissance answers are also welcome.

share|improve this question
It seems this would depend on a variety of factors, but I am by no means an expert on this type of thing. – American Luke May 28 '13 at 0:29
up vote 9 down vote accepted

No definite figure can be given, as so much depends on circumstances.

  • were prefabricated parts available for use? This saves a lot of time
  • availability of appropriate raw materials. A nearby forest with nice straight trees helps a lot
  • trained craftsmen. If you have a few hundred carpenters and blacksmiths experienced in building the equipment you need, they can churn them out faster than if you have to have it all done by conscript soldiers who're learning on the job
  • number of devices in the production run. The first one is going to take longer than the xth, as your people get "in the groove" and set up assembly lines
  • tools. If you don't have the right tools with you, it's going to take a lot longer

Given enough people, premade parts, and proper tools, a trebuchet or similar device (and this has been done by historians and archeologists, it was aired on History and I guess elsewhere a few years ago but I'm sure there are more sources) can be put together in a few hours by a relatively small team.

share|improve this answer
Thanks for your answer, such an estimate is just what I was looking for. It's my impression siege towers were much more complicated to build - would you perhaps have an estimate for one as well? – Angew May 29 '13 at 6:14
@Angew sorry, no. They would not be more mechanically complex, but their larger size and mass would require more manpower I guess (and/or larger cranes or other lifting machinery). – jwenting May 29 '13 at 11:56

The 'Highland fling' , a trebuchet project in Scotland took some two weeks and around 35 people.


It worked.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.