Where does the term “battering ram” come from and What does it mean?

Long before the days of Alexander the Great some military genius hit upon a scheme for entering the walls of an opposing city.

He ordered a group of his soldiers to take a long log and swing it repeatedly against a vulnerable spot in the wall.

In later improvements, the beam, sometimes eighty, a hundred, or even a hundred and twenty feet in length, was hung by chains from a frame under a protective canopy and operated by a hundred or more men.

No wall could be built in those ancient times, according to one chronicler, that could withstand such battering if long continued. To protect the head of the beam and to make its blows more effective, it was at first shod with iron. The machine was already called a ram (Latin, aries), in allusion to the butting propensities of the male sheep.

Hence, to make the allusion even more fitting, the ancient artisans fashioned the head into the form of a ram’s head. The Roman military machine remained in use among European armies until the invention of gunpowder.

Its English name, ram or battering-ram, is no more than a translation of the name used in the days of Caesar.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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