Siege Towers Vs. Battering Rams – Which Is Better?

Key Point: While being more difficult to build, siege towers are generally better than battering rams, since they preserve the fortification they are attacking, and unlike battering rams do not destroy it.

This article will cover the topic of siege towers vs. battering rams. Both siege towers and battering rams were effective in siege but one is a better choice. And you will see which siege weapon is better.

Now, before we continue let’s see how a siege tower compares to the battering ram. How are these two weapons different?

There are 3 main differences between a siege tower and a battering ram and they are:

  • Purpose (the goal of siege towers was to get the attacking soldiers on the same height as the defending soldiers, the goal of battering rams was to break walls)
  • Ease of construction (it took longer to construct a siege tower versus a battering ram)
  • Dimensions (the siege tower was a lot larger than an average battering ram)

Those are the 3 main differences between a siege tower and a battering ram. Now, let’s continue with the topic of siege towers vs. battering rams in more detail. Starting with the difference in their purpose.

Siege Towers Vs. Battering Rams – Difference In Purpose

Let’s start with siege towers.

Siege towers were tall, multi-level weapons that could be moved up to the walls of a fortress. Thus providing an elevated platform from which attackers could launch attacks on defenders.

That meant throwing stones, arrows, or even boiling oil. The primary purpose of a siege tower was to elevate the attacking soldiers to the same height as the defenders. That could enable them to fire at the defending soldiers or “walk” on the walls of the besieging city. Often times they packed them with archers that fired arrows at the walls from roughly the same height while foot soldiers stormed the walls. Pretty genius if you ask me.

Battering rams, meanwhile, were designed to break through walls and gates. That just meant they pounded them with a large, heavy object. Not exactly rocket science. You can see how battering rams worked in detail here.

But the short story is this. The primary purpose of a battering ram was to break through the defenses of a fortress and create a way for attackers to enter.

So, while both siege towers and battering rams were used in medieval siege warfare, they had different purposes. Siege towers were used to gain height and provide a platform for attackers to launch attacks while battering rams were used to break down walls and gates to create a way into the fortress.

Now, let’s take a look at the second difference.

Ease Of Construction

Siege towers were large, multi-story structures that required a significant amount of resources and labor to construct. The process of building a siege tower could take several days or even weeks. It required skilled carpenters, blacksmiths, and laborers. The complexity of their design and the number of materials required to build a siege tower made the construction process quite difficult.

Battering rams, on the other hand, were comparatively simpler to construct. They were essentially large logs with a metal tip or ram on one end, and they could be constructed relatively quickly and with minimal resources.

While the size and weight of a battering ram could vary depending on the specific needs of the attacking force, the construction process was typically much simpler than that of a siege tower. This made battering rams a popular choice for attacking forces who lacked the time, resources, or skilled labor required to build a more complex siege weapon like a siege tower.

Key Takeaway: A battering ram was easier to build compared to the siege tower.

Oftentimes an army anticipating siege could carry the parts to a battering ram with them and assemble it rather quickly. With the siege tower that was more difficult and you will see why in a moment.

Siege Towers Vs. Battering Rams – Difference In Size

As you can imagine one of the most significant differences between the two was their size.

Siege towers were typically large and imposing structures, often several stories high, that could be moved up to the walls of a fortress. They were often taller than the walls of the fortress they were attacking, allowing attackers to look down on defenders and launch attacks from a higher vantage point. When it comes to the Ancient Romans, could build towers up to 100 feet tall. While in the Middle Ages, the height was generally lower.

The reason why the height was so different was due to the difference in circumstances. The siege tower was built by order. In a sense, they saw the height of the wall, and said “Okay, let’s go a little higher than that”. The height of any siege tower depended on the height of the wall in front of it. Hence why there are no standard sizes through regions or centuries.

All in all the sheer size of siege towers also made them more difficult to move, and it often required a large number of soldiers to push or pull them into place.

Battering rams, on the other hand, were much smaller than siege towers. As with the siege tower, the size of the battering ram could vary depending on the specific needs of the attacking force. But in general, they were much smaller than siege towers. This made battering rams more mobile than siege towers and allowed them to be moved more easily and quickly.

Key Takeaway: In general siege towers were much larger than battering rams. That is why they were harder to move than the battering rams.

Which Is Better?

If the conditions were perfect to use a battering ram and a siege tower and you had resources for just one. You pick a siege tower. The main advantage of a siege tower, and why it’s superior is the fact does not harm your conquest. You storm the walls and after you’re done you’re left with a functioning castle. When it comes to the battering ram, if it’s effective you are then left with a gap in your walls.

So, if conditions are perfect for both, choose a siege tower.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two from it. If you wish to continue learning about siege weapons from history I suggest taking a look at my article on the 4 types of catapults used in medieval times, just go here and another tab will open up for you.

Or take a look at my article on the Mantlet. The medieval shield used to protect soldiers while they were storming enemy castles and fortifications. Go here to take a look.

Take care!

Source: Nossov, K. (2006). Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Siege Weapons and Tactics