Pioneered by the ancient Assyrians, battering rams broke the restrictions of hoplite warfare dramatically, making formerly impregnable city walls vulnerable to attack. Rams worked by suspending a large, iron-capped wooden trunk under a wooden frame, which was often covered by wooden plates and damp animal skins for protection from enemy missiles (arrows were often lit in an attempt to burn the ram’s frame). The ram – with an iron cap that was often forged to resemble a ram’s head – was then swung by soldiers within the frame backwards and forwards (generating momentum within a restricted plane) against the stone wall, eventually leading to its resistance being broken.
Battering rams were not only used as a siege weapon used for over 1,500 years until gunpowder superseded it as the primary method of breaching fortifications, but also in industry. Roman historian Pliny the Elder describes battering rams being used for mining purposes, where tough, hardened rock needed to be broken to make valuable ores accessible. Today, though, battering rams are usually restricted to handheld devices, used by emergency services to breach doors to gain entry to a compromised building complex.