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8-08-2015, 16:49

Why Sieges Were Important

For several important reasons, sieges of castles, and at times fortii ed towns, became the chief form of warfare in medieval times. First, these places dominated politics and most social life. h is was especially true during the High Middle Ages (ca. 1000–1300). Castles, located either in the countryside or in towns, were the main residences of the kings, queens, dukes, and other nobles. h ese fortii ed habitations were also where monarchs, nobles, and other leaders made the decisions and issued the orders that kept a kingdom running smoothly. Functions such as making laws, dispensing justice, determining tax rates, and overseeing food distribution occurred behind the tall, protective walls of castles and fortiied towns. hus, as tools of political and social control, these places were the natural targets of enemy armies seeking to conquer or disrupt a country. Castles were also major military objectives in themselves because many of the trained knights and other soldiers in a given region either lived in them or were temporarily stationed in them. hese structures were also most frequently the main storehouses of weapons, horses, and other instruments of war. Another crucial military value of castles was their location, which was almost always strategic. As Christopher Gravett says, they “were often situated on roads or rivers and frequently near junctions. herefore, if an invading body was of inadequate strength, it was forced to give such strongholds a wide berth, leading to major inconvenience and loss of time. In order to secure a conquered country, the castles themselves had to be captured.”23 he military importance of castles and fortiied towns was neither new nor conined to the medieval era. Fortiications and the sieges intended to capture or destroy them were common in both Europe and the Middle East in ancient times. he Assyrians and Persians, centered in what are now Iraq and Iran, and the Greeks and Romans, who long controlled the Mediterranean lands, all created large walled fortresses and towns and developed siege warfare into a genuine art. In fact, the medieval kingdoms that inherited Europe after Rome’s disintegration based their knowledge of conducting sieges largely on Roman models. Also as with ancient sieges, medieval ones had two principal and opposing facets, much like the contrasting sides of a single coin. One facet was ofensive in nature. hat is, one party sought to attack and take a castle or town. In contrast, the other side of the coin was defensive in nature, as those who dwelled in the castle or town tried to counter the assault and keep the enemy out.