Category Archives: the meaning of words

Drilling through castle walls with a Terebra

I stumbled across a new type of siege engine that I hadn’t previously known about. Well, when I say it is a “new” type of siege engine I mean new to me. It has been around for centuries. I just never heard of it before. It is called a Terebra.

terebra2

 

 

 

 

I was doing some castle research, reading a book called British Castles – by Charles Ashdown when I ran across the Terebra.

This is all Ashdown said about it:

The Terebra.— A machine based upon the classical terebra was also in use. It consisted of a heavy beam which could be rotated; the iron head being furnished with a spike of square section was inserted in a joint into which it bored its way, breaking up the surrounding stones and facilitating their removal.

So I did some more digging to try to get a better sense of what it was and how it looks. I did find a few pictures. A couple of which I have put here in this blogpost.

terebra

 

 

 

 

This second picture is in German and the literal translation of its name is “Wall driller” which is apt.

It is an interesting siege engine because most engines rely on brute force to simply destroy castle walls whereas the terebra is a bit more elegant in that it drills!

I don’t think they were used very often, if at all. It seems to me you have to get awfully close to a curtain wall or a castle wall to use it. And this leaves you vulnerable to archers for an extended period of time.

But my understanding here is that the point isn’t to drill through the stone of the castle but to drill through the mortar between the stones which seems more feasible. A series of holes drilled in the mortar would weaken the wall making it more vulnerable to brute attacks by other siege engines.

Anyhoo, It is an interesting word and an interesting, relatively unknown, type of siege engine.

About the Book
The book I was reading is called British Castles – By Charles Ashdown  and it is in the public domain. I have it as a free download in ebook and kindle format on my website here:
Free ebooks about Castles

 

Test your knowledge of medieval jobs and their names

If you want to have a little fun with this and actually test yourself then don’t scroll all the way down right away! Each answer is given after each question. Reveal them after you guess. 

Ok, I have a fun little test for you. Do you know medieval jobs? Maybe you are a medievalist or maybe you just know a lot of words. Either way this should be fun. And you might even learn a new medieval word or two. These are all professions that originate in the early to middle ages.

a-cordwainer

Test 1: What is a Blacksmith?

Ha! That is a pretty easy one! You probably know it.

But let’s take it a little further.. What is a Farrier? 

Answer: A Farrier is a subset of blacksmithing. It is a person who specializes in working with horses. Typically shoeing them, making and repairing the various metal horse gear. And  Farriers of old were even well-versed in diseases and afflictions of horses.

 

 

Test 2: What is a cooper?

Ahh…. did you know that one? If you know this one then you get a grade of at least a “B”. Good work.

A cooper is a person who makes and repairs wooden barrels and casks. Sometimes they also make various wooden utensils. Think of the big wine barrels you see in vinyards. Making and repairing those is the job of a cooper.

Test 3: What is a Cordwainer?
(The hardest one. If you get this one then you get a grade of “A”.

 

Ahh… hint: It is similar to a cobbler but definitely not the same.

Answer: A cordwainer is a person who works with brand new leather to make shoes. It is important that it is brand new leather and brand new shoes. This is because a cobbler only works with old leather and repairs shoes.

In the middle ages this distinction was very important. Cordwainers did not allow cobblers to make shoes. Cobblers only repaired shoes.  They had separate guilds and eventually cobblers were accepted as a sub guild of the cordwainer guild.

Good work if you got them all!

Want to know more medieval jobs?  I have a list of them on my website here: Medieval Jobs

Ever Get Pelted with something? That word, and it’s meaning is ancient.

If you follow my blog you know I have a love of words. And I particularly love those words that have their roots in something deep from the past. The meaning of which now has changed or been lost altogether.

Well, I have a new word for you. Have you ever been pelted by something?  For us it typically means to get a bunch of small, and irritating things thrown at you.

And it is a good definition that comes to us from ancient warfare. Yes, thousands of years ago is where this word originates.

You see during the times of ALexander the great, they had these soldiers that would skirmish around the battlefield in no particular formation. They would carry a small shield called a Pelte. (Thus the name)

But the unique thing about this type of soldier was that he carried several small spears or maybe even a sling and stones.

And they would go in and out of battle quickly, pelting the enemy with the spears and stones. IT was a harrassment of sorts.

And thus we still use the word, in a very similar fashion. Just without the actual warfare. More for fun . The picture here shows a Peltast.

peltast