The development of concrete fortifications during the Middle Ages influenced greatly the development of siege warfare. Many factors play a significant role in the development of fortifications and siege weapons. For instance, strong fortifications were the lifeline of any city and Kingdom during the Middle Ages.
Additionally, how irrelevant fortifications became after the invention of Gunpowder and Canons. For instance, we study the legacy of Constantinople and its super-strong fortifications that repel many assaults for over several centuries, until; finally falling in the 15th century.
King Alfred the Great
English King Alfred the Great was an important monarch of the period. Alfred was credited with the development of strong fortifications in Europe, after defeating the Vikings King Alfred decided to build many fortifications to protect his domains.
The creation of the Castles brought a gradual end to the Viking raids and a beginning of the development of siege warfare in medieval times. Although, the Magyars were decisively defeated by the Franks. For example, according to Crusades! by Thomas F. Madden.
Siege warfare changed drastically during the era of castles. Stead of assaulting the walls, which was very difficult, the attackers would starve out the populace until they would surrender or come out and fight.
According to Medieval World by Thomas F. Madden, medieval fortifications such as; Castles, city walls, Fortresses, and Citadels first developed from the fear of raids from the Vikings many invasions.
However, fortifications were later established as a symbol of authority by feudal lords. For instance, during the Middle Ages nobles owned castles as their personal property and had the, peasants work the farms for protection.
Crusades! by Thomas F. Madden
Invasions from the Muslims, the Magyars, and Vikings in the 10th century A.D brought devastation to Europe and change the minds of Europeans on fortifications and accelerate the process of a fortify Europe. For example, at one point you were cultivating the farms, suddenly you were killed by a Viking or a Magyar or even a Muslim raid in Spain or Sicily.
The use of the Catapult and Trebuchet was a great addition to siege warfare, however, not many armies could afford to build these weapons, and transporting them was even harder, therefore, were mostly built on the spot, Trebuchets were often used to fire dead cattle into a castle to start diseases.
Even with technological advances in siege warfare, there were still several impenetrable defenses such as the walls of Constantinople and the walls of Rome at one point; these defenses would withstand many attacks and suffer minimal damage. Of all the great defenses of the Middle Ages, the walls of Constantinople are the most formidable of the period.
These defenses helped the Byzantine Empire survive for many centuries; they survived attacks from the Huns, the Parthians, the Sassanid, and numerous times against the Turks. According to Empire of Gold by Thomas F. Madden the Byzantines survived for so long because its capital Constantinople was strategically located by a coast accessible to supplies while under siege.
In other words to efficiently siege Constantinople you needed sufficient resources to use warships and troops on land. In addition, the walls of Constantinople were massively built over centuries of technological development and often enhanced by many Byzantines’ Emperors; they were so massive and very well built that many sections still survive to this day.
During the medieval period, fortifications symbolized more than just strong defenses, a was a symbol of security for the populace. For instance, when Rome fell in 476 A.D the Roman aristocracy fled to Constantinople where they felt secure and willing to settle. Thus making Constantinople a great city for investment and development.
In addition, the fact that Constantinople was viewed as impenetrable made it flourish and very diverse, people from all over Europe travel to the “City”. Moreover, the most important reason this city was ideal to settle in was its massive fortifications that had a psychological effect on its citizens as well as any attacker.
Constantinople’s massive fortifications were never bridged for more than a thousand years. However, new tactics and the development of Gunpowder in the 13th century eventually made any fortification in Europe and the East seemed useless.
With the introduction of the Canon to the West, warfare in the Middle Ages was gradually changing in tactics and defenses. Castles and citadels were no longer massive very well-protected defenses but rather walls that easily collapsed with a hit of a Canon.
Constantinople survived many attacks by many armies; nonetheless, the Ottoman Turks were never discouraged to attack and capture Constantinople for religious and political reasons. In addition, when Sultan Mehmed II secured power in Asia Minor he was determined to take Constantinople and make it his capital.
Thus the invasion of Constantinople and the specialization of Gun powder by many powerful Kingdoms, including the massive Muslim Empire, triggered a rapid decline in new technological advances in massive fortifications.
Strong fortifications became mostly ruins, or recycle material for new building projects. Nevertheless, this, as with many things in the Middle Ages, was a gradual process; many cities still rely on their fortifications for protection centuries after Gun powder.