When browsing Wikipedia, I came across this illustration that displays some of well known siege weapons of Roman empire.


However, something in this illustration caught my eye and it was the second "Wooden shield/blocker"(sorry I don't know the technical term for it) that is on the ramp. I am referring to the wooden shield that's located right by the wall. What is the purpose of a wooden shield so close to the wall? Why didn't defenders simply set it on fire or destroy it with some other means if it was that close? Is the Illustration misleading about the actual position of the second wooden shield? Are there any references that suggest Romans(Or some other faction in history) did indeed placed wooden shields that close to the enemy fortifications?

enter image description here

1 Answer 1


I am imagining the picture is stylized and not drawn to scale.

Depending on how close the shield on the ramp was placed to the gates of the city, the shield would do two things:

  • Offer some protection to the attacking side from arrows and other projectiles dispatched by the defenders.
  • Hide the attackers from the defenders so the defenders didn't know what the attackers might have been planning, or how imminent an attack from the ramp would be. Surprise is always useful when attacking.

The defenders may have been able to fire flaming arrows at the shield in the hope of trying to destroy it by burning. This would require the shield to be within range, the archers to have the presence of mind to shoot flaming arrows.

As to the defense of the shield against such fire attacks:

  • Monitors for the attackers could be waiting to extinguish any fires
  • If the attackers were smart and had the resources the side of the shield could be covered with sheets of metal to deflect any arrows to minimized the potential for successful fire arrow attacks.
  • 7
    I remember reading about attackers (not Romans though, I think it was Persians?) using wet hides to protect siege equipment from fires during some sieges, that's probably at least as effective as metal sheets.
    – Alice
    Sep 5, 2020 at 12:27

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