Ancient Engineering
Ballistic Technologies of Antiquity

Ballista Plans

Downloadable Ballista Plans

What's included with these plans:

* Detail drawings of all wooden parts.
* Notes on working with wood.
* Detailed assembly instructions with lots of photographs!

These plans are available in downloadable PDF format only. The download instructions will be emailed to
you on receipt of payment.

This model of the Greek and Roman Ballista can demonstrate all the principles of the device as best we
know them from what little actual history has survived the ages. How they really worked. How to make
springs out of rope. This is the most accurate of the catapults too! Great for hitting a target.

The completed model is 41 inches long and 24 inches wide (not including the sweep of the arms). It stands
31 inches tall and is capable of hurling a golf ball over 200 feet! (Or more, depending on how you
construct and tune it.)

The detailed instructions are complete with diagrams, photos, tuning tips and web links for even more
information about catapults!

It's a great science experiment, and a great model just to have fun with for a different kind of target

Tools you will need to make this kit:
- Table saw
- Miter saw or chop saw
- Drill press or power drill
- Screw driver
- Glue
- Clamps
- Scissors
Optional Helpful tools : Router table, Files and Chisel.

Designed by catapult and trebuchet expert Ron Toms, this machine is easy to assemble, and it really

We've put a lot of time and effort into making this plan as easy and complete as possible. It's a great way to
learn about ancient catapults!

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    Price: $6.95
    Minimum age: 10
    Availability: out of stock

    Item code: 92009




A catapult is any kind of device that shoots or launches a projectile by mechanical means. In England, a catapult is what we call a slingshot in the US. A catapult is also the part of an aircraft carrier that launches airplanes off the deck.

But for our purposes, a catapult is any of the ancient types of artillery, including Onagers, Scorpions, Trebuchets, Ballistae, Springalds, Coullards, Bricoles Perriers and more.

But most people tend to think of a catapult as the one-armed torsion machine used by the Romans. This is also known as the Onager or Mangonel.


The word Mangonel derives from the ancient Greek word "Manganon", literally meaning "engine of war". The Romans called it a Manganum. In pre-medieval French the word Manganum was changed to Manganeau, and the English changed that to Mangonel in the 1300s.

The history gets a little sketchy in the middle ages, but some historians believe that "mangonel" was shortened to the word "gonnel" about the same time that cannons were being developed, and later still, "gonnel" was shortened to "gun." And still today, in the military a "gun" is strictly a piece of big artillery.


Onager is originally the name for the wild Asian donkey. This donkey bucks like a bronco if anyone gets too close to it, and it is known to kick stones at people and predators too. So when the Romans needed a name for their one-armed torsion catapult, they called it the Onager!

The Onager (catapult) has a single arm that is powered by a large skein of twisted ropes. The ropes were usually made from hair or sinew for their elastic properties.


The word "Trebuchet" is originally French, and meant something like "to fall over or rotate about the middle" as in a see-saw rotating on its axle. It also seems to have meant a big, heavy beam. Today a Trebuchet is any kind of catapult that is powered by a massive counterweight on one end of an arm, and a sling on the other end. This includes Perriers, or "traction" trebuchets which are powered by a mass of people pulling one end of the arm with ropes.


This is a two-armed torsion device invented by the Greeks. It works similar to a crossbow, but instead of a flexible bow, it uses two stiff arms powered by twisted rope skeins like an Onager. The ballista predates the Onager by several centuries and was used to hurl stones (lithobolos style ballista) and also bolts or darts.

Obviously, this is where we get the word "ballistic".