Basic information about various hobby and craft topics.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

A Brief History Of The Castle

The romantic vision of the knight is often accompanied by the image of a castle, high on a hill. The history of the castle is imbedded in our culture. The word castle is derived from the Latin word castellum, or small fortified place.

The cities of Rome were walled to provide for their defense and this is the origin of the first castles. These were usually constructed of wood, on top of a mound, or motte. A ditch was usually dug around the structure to make approach more difficult.

As the art of warfare developed, the castle needed to be made more complex to make it harder to capture. Multiple walls were constructed, one inside another, the area between the walls being called a bailey.

The history of the castle continues with its still further development of large towering structure in the center of the castle called the keep by the Normans. This was the last defensive position within the castle and featured thick masonry walls and small defensive window to allow archers and other defensive measures. The keep would also contain living quarters for the castle dwellers, a well for water, and stores of food and weapons.

Keeps were first constructed as rectangular structures, later they were made round because
that shape is easier to defend.

At about this time the moat replaced the ditch as the outside defense of the castle. The moat was wider and deeper, and preferably filled with water. It was crossed by a drawbridge which could be raised and lowered at will.

By the 1200’s the final evolution of the history of the castle occurred as they became increasingly complex. The keep was made smaller and stronger. The apartments were moved out of the keep and into larger structures located in the bailey.

The early sixteenth century saw the invention of gunpowder and the development of cannon, missiles, and guns. The history of the castle as a military tool came to an end, as they were no longer impregnable to these modern weapons.

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