A brief glossary of siege and sortie in the time of the crusaders

Battlement: A parapet, with crenelation, atop a fortress wall, from which defenders could fire down Oil attacking troops.

Bent entrance: An entrance passage into n castle that makes an abrupt turn. The turn inhibited the use of a battering ram, confused and slowed down the attackers and might make them vulnerable to missiles or fluids from machico- lations overhead. The long entry passage in the Krak had three such turns.

Cisterns: Rainwater from paved roofs and courtyards was channeled into underground cisterns, some hewn from solid rock. A large water supply was essential for withstanding an extended siege, and cisterns were valuable even if a castle had its own well or spring.

Communications: Castles were often built on ridge lines within sight of each other so that signal fires could be used at night to pass on an alarm. Both the Arab armies and the crusaders also used carrier pigeons.

Concentric fortifications: Whenever the site permitted, castles had two lines of defense, the inner wall on higher ground being always taller than the outer wall. Towers and loopholes were arranged so that those in the inner wall were never directly behind or above similar features in the outer wall, doubling their effectiveness.

Crenelation: In battlements, which alternate open and solid spaces, the notches are crenels and the solid intervals merlons. Merlons were sometimes furnished with loopholes.

Embrasure:An opening in a wall, such as a loophole or a crenel; especially an opening whose sides flare outward, providing defenders shooting through the opening with both the widest possiblefield of fire and the maximum protection against incoming missiles.

Keep: Usually the highest and innermost tower, often built to overlook and thus strengthen the most vulnerable sector of the castle's defenses. It was also the point from which the commander might direct the defense.

Loopholes: In later castles, walls and towers were pierced at every level by loopholes or slits through which arrows or other missiles could be fired. The slits were often widened at the bottom into a stirrup shape to broaden their fields of fire, and set so that none was directly above another.

Machicolation: An opening between the corbel stones of a projecting roof through which missiles or hot fluids, like molten lead, could be discharged on assailants below. From the French mache-col, or "neck-crusher." A box machicoulis added the further protection of a projecting, vertical parapet above the openings between the corbels.

Moat: A deep, wide trench, often filled with water, that served as a barrier around a fortified castle.

Parapet: A low wall or breastwork that protected the edge of a platform or the walk along the top of a larger wall.

Postern: A small gate at the side or back of a castle, usually in a concealed spot, such as a recess in the angle of a square tower. The postern, also called sally port, permitted small offensive sorties and allowed messengers to come and go inconspicuously.

Portcullis: A heavy grating hung above a fortified gate- way; it could be lowered, sliding in stone grooves, to block the entry.

Stores: Vast, cool underground chambers were stocked with enough dried or preserved food to see a .large garrison through a lengthy siege. The defense strategy might include equipping a castle with a windmill, granaries, oil presses and dovecotes.

Talus: The much thickened lower portion of a castle's curtain wall, designed to prevent attackers from getting too clo.se to the base of the wall, or directly beneath towers and battlements, where they might be hidden from the line of fire. The talus gives the lower half or third of the walls a distinct outward slope.

Towers: Set at intervals in both outer and inner walls, towers were strong- points from which fire could be concentrated. In early fortresses they were placed at corners or turns in the wall; later structures had more towers, spaced more frequently and protruding from the castle walls to permit f,flanking fire along them. Square towers gave way to cylindrical ones, again improving the field of fire and making the tower less susceptible to battering or undennini1lg. There are also a few examples of towers with horseshoe-shaped plans, combin- ing the best features of square and round towers.

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