Weaponry progressed significantly throughout the Middle Ages from unsophisticated means such as axes, swords, lances and crossbows too much more advanced and complex weapons such as guns, cannons and missiles. In the beginning of the 7th century armies in Western Europe were little more than armed mobs. The development of weapons and other materials of war became more and more evident beginning in the 8th century and continued to advance dramatically through the mid 15th century when they reached their pinnacle of efficiency. The Middle Ages have long been labeled as a period of little or no technological advances, but with regards to weaponry this claim has been proven false. The ever increasing effectiveness of offensive and defensive weapons throughout this period up to and including the introduction of gun powder was the foundation of many of today's weapon systems.
When the Byzantine Army was being developed as a model fighting force in the early 7th century, the armies of Western Europe were made up of mostly barbarians who relied on weight, numbers and sheer physical courage to do battle (Hindley, 22). These battles were fought exclusively on land, as naval warfare did not evolve until somewhere around the 13th century. In comparison to future centuries, weapons during this period of time were extremely primitive. The most common weapons of this time period were battle-axes, daggers, and hatchets. During this era defensive weapons and armor were nearly non existent. Prior to the 8th century, military architecture consisted of mostly wooden structures or castles not even surrounded by fences.
Materials for these castles were cheap and easy to come by. Protection was limited as these castles were little more than walled enclosures. Military warfare prior to and of this era had much room for improvement.
The development of weapons and raw materials of war began in the early 8th century when the mounted warrior began to dominate the battlefields. These armored warriors replaced barbarians of previous centuries (Hindley, 22). Also occurring during this time period was the evolution of heavy feudal calvary. This flexible and efficient calvary was improved by the adoption of detailed armor. The objective of this armor was to allow the warrior freedom to use his weapons as well as provide protection from his opponents' weapons. This well-made armor included helmets, breastplates, and shields. War horses or chargers as they were commonly called, had to be strong enough to carry the heavily armored knights. Chief offensive weapons were the mace, ball and chain, lance, sword and throwing axe. The calvary sword was a large double-edged straight blade with a blunt point, which could cleave all but the stoutest armor. The lance was a long pole pointed at the end. Often broken at first onset, it was fitted with a crosspiece behind the blade so that it did not penetrate too far into the body making it hard to remove. The wooden castles of earlier eras gave way to ones built of stone complete with moats, dry stone walls, gateways and drawbridges all designed to protect other structures and to provide a last line of defense for townspeople and lords. This period of moderate technical advance laid the foundation for the development of finer, more sophisticated weaponry beginning in the 10th century.
One of the more important advances in offensive weaponry was the development of the crossbow in the latter parts of the 10th century. Although its origin is unclear, it was developed in the West until it became the most lethal infantry weapon of its time (Hindley, 23). The crossbow consisted of a short bow mounted on a wooden stock. It was fired by a trigger and could be aimed from the shoulder like a handgun. It was improved on in later centuries to become ...