Ballistae & Catapult mixup, from whence?

Look up at the word Catapult or ballistae on google or any other search engine and you’re bound to get the impression that the two terms are applied incorrectly.

What people usually term ballistae is in fact a catapult, and vice cersa.

Even the words should be a clue to people. Ballistic missiles have an arched trajectory to their target, nothing at all like what people call a ballistae.

So where did this confusion arise from? And why is it still so prevalent?

[linguistic nitpick] Sorry, no answer to your question, I just wanted to pop in and point out that “whence” means “from where,” and that therefore “from whence” is redundant.
[/linguistic nitpick]

(Yes, I know I’m an arrogant jerk.)

Please proceed.

All ancient siege engines are ballistic. The projectile is accelerated for a limited part of it trajectory i.e. until it leaves the engine and from that point its motion is determined by its own momentum plus the effects of gravity (plus other effects like air resitance of course.) The same is true for a ballistic missile. It is accelerated on the first part of the trajectory and then “drops” on what is more or less a parable. In contrast e.g. a cruise missile is propelled during the whole flight. Remember also that the term ballistic is also routinely used referring to firearms which are usually not associated with very arched trajectories.

Thanx for the clarification :slight_smile:

And while we’re at it, both of the devices you mention are also catapults, since they both throw something. They use different methods to throw it, but they both throw.

And kellner, some ancient siege engines aren’t ballistic at all, like battering rams and scaling towers. But we knew what you meant.