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The Trabuco: An Ancient War Machine

The Trabuco is a siege weapon employed in the Middle Ages for the purpose of crushing masonry walls or firing projectiles over them, similar to the catapult. It is sometimes called a balancing Trabuco, to distinguish itself from another weapon, the traction Trabuco, created before the balancing Trabuco. In Brazil, it is also a popular way of referring to revolvers or shotguns of large caliber and usually gibbet.

The counterweight blunderbuss appeared in Christian and Muslim countries around the Mediterranean. He could throw 140 kilos of projectiles at high speeds on enemy fortifications up to 800 meters away and be relatively accurate. There have been reports that disease- infected bodies were launched in an attempt to infect the people under attack, a biological warfare adapted to the middle ages. According to Trabuco was invented in China, about 400 BC, and was brought to Europe in 600 AD, and was not abandoned until the outbreak of gunpowder.

The invention of Trabuco derives from the old sling. A variation of this sling contained a small piece of wood to extend the weapon and provide a better lever. This was evolving, thanks to the Chinese, for the traction bolt, which implied that a certain number of people would pull the strings attached to the short arm of a lever that had a sling over the long arm. This is the smallest type of Trabuco, with a smaller extension, but is more portable, being transported with more facility, and still has a smaller time interval between the launches (throwing more projectiles in less time). According to, the smallest traction beam can be executed by a single person, being “fed” by the weight and the person, who pulls a single rope. However, most of the tributes were designed in larger size and required 15 to 45 men to handle them, ie two men per rope. The men who operated the weapon were local citizens helping in the attack, or in the defense of their city.

Unfortunately, with the emergence of gunpowder, the Trabuco has lost its place as the “best choice” for the cannon. Trabuco was used both in the attack of Burgos ( 1475 – 1476 ) and the attack of Rhodes ( 1480 ). The last military use was registered by Hernán Cortés, in 1521, in the attack on the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán. The reason for using the Trabuco was the lack of gunpowder. In 1779, British forces defended the Strait of Gibraltar. Considering that their guns would be insufficient for their purposes, they built a blunderbuss, it is not known if the attempt was successful: The Spaniards, attackers, were later defeated.)

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