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See C. W. C. Oman, Art of War in the Middle Ages (2d ed. 1924, repr. 1959); S. Toy, A History of Fortification from 3000 B.C. to A.D. 1700 (2d ed. 1966); V. Melegari, The Great Military Sieges (1972); I. V. Hogg, Fortress (1975); C. Duffy, Siege Warfare (2 vol., 1979–85).
a method of combat for capturing a fortress or other fortification.
The siege was used from very ancient times when a city or fortress could not be taken by sudden attack or by storm. A siege consisted of encircling the fortress with troops, building around it siege fortifications (called lines of countervallation and circum-vallation), setting up fortified camps, establishing a blockade, and, if necessary, mounting a gradual or accelerated attack that usually ended in a storm. Part of the forces of the besieging troops protected the siege fortifications, preventing sorties of the besieged and enemy attacks from without, while the main forces conducted the actual siege. Sometimes, after establishing the blockade, the besiegers waited for the besieged to run out of ammunition and surrender. Such a siege could last months or even years.
To approach the walls of the fortress, the besiegers used enclosed movable galleries, called vineae, and, after the invention of firearms, open-ground approaches, parallels, saps, and other earthen structures, as well as underground passages to penetrate the fortress or destroy a section of its walls. In a gradual attack, the besiegers tried to destroy the walls with battering rams, windlasses, hooks, and throwing engines (such as catapults and ballistae), as well as siege towers (helepoles), ladders, and fascines. With the appearance of gunpowder and the development of artillery, buried land mines and artillery bombardment were used to breach the walls of the fortress. Siege artillery came into use in the 17th century (in Russia in the early 18th century). In the 17th century the French military engineer A. Deville and later the Marquis de Vauban systematized and improved the methods for the gradual attack on fortresses. The methods remained essentially unchanged until the early 20th century.
In the 18th through early 20th centuries, siege armies were created to besiege fortresses. Such armies were formed by the Japanese at Port Arthur in 1904 and the Germans and Russians in World War I (1914–18) for the siege of Liege, Namur, Mau-beuge, and Przemyśl. The term “siege” went out of use after World War I.