A battering ram was a military machine, used for breaking down the walls of forts and walled cities attacked by enemy armies. It was a long, heavy, wodden beam with a ram-head shaped metal cap on one end. Crews of more than one hundreds soldiers could swing the beam and strike walls with the metal end, but many of them would be killed by arrows and stones from walls defenders.
The ram was then improved to give the attackers protection from the arrows and stones of the defenders. A platform was built of wood and provided with wheels. A thick wooden roof supported by posts standing on the platform acted as a shield against arrows. The wooden beam, sometimes as long as 120 feet, was then hung from the underside of the roof by two very thick ropes. A crew of soldiers would take hold of the beam, and pull it back as far as they could, and let it go.
The huge beam would then swing back and strike against the wall with its iron head. This was continued day and night with one crew relieving another when it got tired. No wall could withstand the terrific pounding of a battering ram for very long. Knowing this, the defenders tried in all sorts of ways to destroy it before the wall broke down. Sometimes they tried to smash the roof in and kill the crew by dropping a heavy rock upon them. Another method was to throw down a heavy rope with a grapnel at the end. The grapnel was a long iron hook with five or six sharp curved claws on it. With this they tried to catch the head of the ram and pull it up over the wall. The name ram was used because the male sheep attacks by charging forward and striking its enemy with its head.