ANST - Nasty Ballista in A&S

Dennis Grace amazing at
Tue Aug 26 11:48:01 PDT 1997

Salut, Cosyns,

Lyonel aisai.

Wolf responds to my:
>> Sounds, like a potentially awesome creation, Cosyn, and you still have time
>> to prepare for this year's A&S competition.  So, as to the other questions I
>> asked on this topic, how should it be "judged" as an A&S entry?  Should the
>> judges fire it to test for accuracy, range, and speed of operation?  Also,
>> how "period" was it to prettify ballistas and such?  I mean, would you
>> expect the Duc de Britagne to have a plain old wood and iron catapult or
>> mangonel or ballista, or would it be decorated with scrollwork and paints
>> and so forth?


>i've been watching this thread a while and see a lot of confusion ... 
>A&S is a competition for Arts *and* Sciences.  seems that there is a 
>belief that that something has to belong to both catagories.  where 
>a siege engine is oncerned, i woul dfocus on the science aspects ... 
>ie: how effective is it as the thing it represents, ie: a war-engine. 

No no no no no.  You're making a lot of broad assumptions.  Mine wasn't a
question of function, it was a question of adornment.  Where do modern
Texans get this ludicrous assumptions that an object can't be both effective
and attractive? Certainly, as my questions suggested, the first concern for
judges of a seige engine should be "how well does it seige."  *In addition*
to those concerns, I was simply asking if anyone who's actually done
research on these creations knows if they were normally adorned in any way.   

>in your scenaria re the Duc above, i would prefer having him as an 
>enemy ... for every "pretty" engine he could field i could field 2-3 
>"ugly" but functional ones ... and could probably get them 
>constructed and on the field a lot faster ... same could be 
>extended to weapons and armour (as it was in the late 
>medieval period where art gave way to function and production 

Sorry, Wolf, but your claims here show little understanding of medieval
economics.  For every 2-3 "ugly" seige engines you could field, the Duc de
Britagne could more likely field a couple dozen "pretty" mangonels--and his
would be designed and built by the best engineers in Europe to boot.  Of
course, I'm thinking 14th or 15th century Britagne.  Perhaps you know of a
period during which the Duc was less wealthy.

I agree, in part, with your claim that *some* late medieval art allowed
aesthetic concerns to displace functional or production concerns, but look
at the digs at Sutton Hoo and all over Sweden and England if you believe
only late medieval warriors gilded and adorned their armor. Aesthetics and
functionality need not be mutually exclusive.  To the medieval mind, they
were linked.

>judge teh thing for what it is and what it represents, not what you 
>as judge want it to be.

No.  Judge the thing for what it's trying to re-create.  If the appropriate
look for a fifteenth century ballista is scrollwork on the crossbeams, I
expect to see scrollwork on the crossbeams of a re-creation of a fifteenth
century ballista.  Or if they had hand-rubbed oil finishes and no other
adornment, that's what I'd expect to see--*without* the fancy scrollwork.

Same questions still stand.

1. How should seige engines be judged at A&S?
2. Does anyone have any information on aesthetic concerns for seige engines?

lo vostre por vos servir

Sir Lyonel Oliver Grace
Dennis Grace
University of Texas at Austin
English Department
Recovering Medievalist
amazing at

Micel yfel deth se unwritere.
                           AElfric of York


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