How do medieval siege machines work?
Siege engines is a very broad term that encompasses a variety of technology.
The fundamental tenant of a "siege engine" is that it will help end a siege. A siege is referred to as limiting access to a fortified position, then trying to conquer or outlast the defenders. This is traditionally thought of an army attacking a castle in the medieval times but can include a multitude of locations including simple geographic features or a home.
In medieval times siege engines had three times:
1) Man powered
2) Simple machine enhanced
3) Chemical reaction powered
A man powered example includes a tunnel being dug under a wall, a battering ram, or even a ladder. Yes these are simple machines but the primary effort is from manual labor.
A simple machine enhancement usually gains power from a spring effect or from gravity. It is the most normal idea of a siege engine, it includes the catapult, the ballista, and trebuchet. All of these machines rely on gravity or a tension to increase the speed of a projectile. If you want an example, look at sports. Using a stick to hit a ball greatly increases the speed of the ball, that is because the outside of the arc swings faster than what you can move your arm.
The third type relies on chemical, usually fire. Early guns were siege engine cannons. Also fire was a classic siege engine. Fire was lit on the doors, flaming arrows, or burning the walls of wooden forts. All provided extra effort.
Siege engines were all intended to kill the defenders or to damage their protection. A defender can have a huge advantage in combat, so the engines help negate some of those advantages.
A siege is a military action. During much of the Middle Ages, military actions were mostly decided by cavalry, with knights fighting on horseback. Castles and walled cities made it impossible for knights to have the advantage they had in the open fields. An assault on a fortified structure required special equipment, which had to be made at the site. An alternative to an assault was the siege. The siege consisted of surrounding the city…
Hannibal lost his siege machines when he crossed the Alps to get into Italy. Without these machines we could not hope to take a city the size of Rome, which would have had to be starved into submission with a long siege. After travelling from northern to central Italy and winning a battle there, Hannibal headed to the south instead attacking Rome for this reason.
Well Early medieval most countries used a nice weapon called the trebuchet (pronounced tre-boo-shay) which could basically hurl rocks for miles. But as gunpowder became more popular people started to make better and better cannons so at the end of the medieval era everyone was using them as siege engines. Or do you mean big things you'd roll up to the city walls and climb over on? They're called siege towers and they were used…
The capture of Rome was in Hannibal's plans. However, he could not attack Rome because he lost his siege machines while crossing the Alps in the snowy winter. Later his brother brought siege machines for Spain to Italy. However he was intercepted before he could reach Hannibal. His army was routed and he was killed.
One of the main tactics used during a siege is to cut off supplies to the occupants and destroy their crops, or to basically starve them out. After the siege, the castle would need to resupply. Part of their recovery would be to buy, barter, or sometimes even beg for new stock from the nearby markets and neighbors.
Hannibal. He did not invade Rome. He invaded Italy. He wanted to attack Rome, but he could not because he lost his siege machines while crossing the Alps. Hasdrubal, his younger brother, brought siege machines from Spain and tried to link up with Hannibal. However, he was intercepted, his army was routed and he was killed. This was the end of Hannibal's hope for victory.
From about 300 B.C until about the end of the medieval era when cannons became so effective that siege towers were obsolete. If you're asking the question "In what situation was the siege tower used" then the answer is when the walls were too thick to shoot down with heavy artillery or when the army's budget was so low that thy couldn't afford cannon.