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Why did castles become obsolete?

Posted By: Freedom4ever
Date: Wednesday, 4-Nov-2009 01:08:52

In Response To: This is OUTSTANDING survival info - Some Ground Truth--The "Us" and the "Them" in a Societal Collapse (Susoni)

I also read that article Susoni, and agree. We will have to devise ways to survive mankind's more sinister side after the collapse. I think about it every day.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Why did castles become obsolete?

Castles were built from the earliest times. They were built around palaces, cities, and towns. Often they were built of enormous thickness and of great height, others were surrounded by a moat, and others surrounded by towers. Some ancient castles date from periods so far back as the walls of Babylon and the wall of Ashur from about 1600 B.C.

The main reason castles were built was for defense. They were very often surrounded by a wall, which was usually supplemented by a strong shield wall at certain points. Slits protected the defenders, and enemy often also had to destroy a series of several gates, which slowed them down considerably. The main door or gate was protected by a long drawbridge and odd things were projecting over the gate, such as dead cows and other diseased animals, and from the gate boiling liquids and missiles could be dropped on the enemies below.

There were many parts and buildings in a castle. The largest refuge of the people living in the castle was the stronghold, or keep. It was the tallest and strongest building in the walls of the castle. It had an entrance that was high off the ground and was accessible only with a removable ladder or wooden bridge, which was difficult to raise and lower. In addition to being the watchtower and a center point of the whole castle, the keep was also a symbol of status. The main building that was lived in, the Great Hall, was called the Palas. The castle chapel was often built in the gatehouse or one of the larger main towers, and a small garden inside the walls grew herbs, flowers and vegetables in the state of an emergency. Castles had large food and water supplies making a siege incredibly difficult; it could take years to starve a well stocked castle. Offices and service rooms were generally built in the outmost ward.

From the sixteenth century on, the walls of the castles had to be made increasingly thicker and stronger in because of the development of artillery. A few, but not many, castles were made into mighty fortresses. Instead, the nobility increasingly moved to more comfortable residential castles. Many, were sumptuously ostentatious and magnificent buildings.

During the third century B.C., the way war was done quickly progressed, so the defense tactics were improved. Romans and Greeks already figured out a way to use gateways in the defense of a fortress. Huge walls and towers were also common. The Romans left rectangular buildings measuring about 60ft by 70 ft called milecastle. Some of their more recent fortifications can be seen in Italy, Palestine, Gaul and Britain.

About 500 A.D. the Byzantine fortifications of this period are among some of the greatest works of military engineering of all time. In France, western Germany and northern Italy, in the ninth century, the medieval castle was created because the nobles began building fortifications since the insecurity increasing in the region. Almost all new cities in Europe were built around castles which became center of government, finance, and trade.

Peasants would lease land from the owner of the castle, and the people would use the land for farms or for other occupations. Since they were only leasing the land, each farmer had to give a portion of his crop, each blacksmith free labor, each baker free food, and so on. In return, not only would the lord provide the land, but also protection in times of conflict. Whenever a threat was approaching, all the peasants would flee into the castle. There they would stay in cramped quarters until it was safe to go out again. If the lord had a military force to fight, he would command them to defend; if not, it was the peasantís job to defend the castle.

As the years passed, new weapons for mass destruction were invented and could destroy castles quite easily. First came trebuchets capable of launching moderate sized objects great distances. However, trebuchets were not mobile, and required time to move them since they had to be disassembled and then reassembled. Next came the siege onager which was a massive catapult capable of launching boulders and smashing walls. However, the greatest blow came in the form of gunpowder. The smaller mortars were barely effective, but they grew into much larger cannon that could knock down a castle wall with sustained gunfire. Mortars were used to fire cannonballs over walls into a courtyard to kill soldiers and cause general damage. Cannons were used to shoot cannonballs directly into castle walls. Though they were not very reliable, these weapons could knock down walls and they made castles a pile of rubble in a very short time. Why spend a fortune on building a castle, which could be blown apart, when the money could be spent on developing artillery?

Castle defenses were of little help against continuous cannon fire. The use of rounded walls might deflect a cannon ball but this would only be by luck. If a cannon ball hit a rounded tower face on, it still would not do much damage. Castles developed thicker walls in response to powerful cannons but this only caused the development of even larger cannons. Eventually fortresses and other buildings were built for defense but stone castles lost their effectiveness. Castles had played an extremely important role in the everyday lives of medieval people for nearly 600 years of prolific construction. Although fortresses would spread throughout the newly colonized world, around the fifteenth century castle building had become obsolete.


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Articles In This Thread

This is OUTSTANDING survival info - Some Ground Truth--The "Us" and the "Them" in a Societal Collapse
Susoni -- Tuesday, 3-Nov-2009 18:16:36
Reader Responds: That was one of the most informative posts I have read in weeks! Thanks!
Susoni -- Tuesday, 3-Nov-2009 22:42:23
Why did castles become obsolete?
Freedom4ever -- Wednesday, 4-Nov-2009 01:08:52
Another Reader advocates learning about Edible plants
Susoni -- Wednesday, 4-Nov-2009 11:25:49


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AN EXPLANATION OF THE FACTIONS