How Trabuco Spread Back And Forth Between China And The West

Posted onCategoriesSiege Weapon

Trabuco were very powerful siege engines which could reduce walls to rubble relatively quickly. They were invented in China around the 4th century BC. It is believed the Avar, a nomadic people, brought them west to the Middle East and Europe. Once they were in the west they quickly replaced catapults which served the same purpose but weren’t nearly as effective.

The Byzantines were the first western society to use Trabuco, possibly as early as 587 AD. In the early 600s Persians started to use them and in later on Arab nations did the same. It was in the 700s that the Saxons and Franks adopted their use. Westerners made improvements to Trabuco which enabled them to hurl bigger rocks. These improvements slowly made their way back east, eventually arriving in China.


The biggest improvement resulted in what is known as the Counterweight Trabuco. They were first used in 1199 BC during the siege of Castelnuovo Bocca D’Adda. Six years later the Germans started to use these and in 1217 they appeared during warfare in England according to These devices spread back to China much faster than how Trabuco had spread the other way. They were first used by the Mongols in China in 1268. They had laid siege to two cities, Xiangyang and Fancheng. The Mongols were not successful at this until they hired two Persian engineers who built Counterweight Trabuco for them. The Mongols were able to pummel these city’s walls and take both of them.

Trabuco were regularly used in warfare up until the last 1400s. What replaced them was cannons being fired with gunpowder. They have been used intermittently since that time. For example, when Hernan Cortes laid siege to the Aztec’s Tenochtitlan he had one built. Rumor has it the first time it was fired the projectile fell straight down and destroyed the Trabuco itself.