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A Catapult is the first siege weapon available.
This unit is usually vital in early gameplay, and can be built after researching just three advances, Alphabet, Masonry, and then Mathematics.
With an attack rating of 6 it can overcome most defensive units of the same era quite frequently. They can also be used defensively in cities, to activate when a city is threatened by attacking nearby units.
Used in combination with more mobile units, such as chariots or cavalry, they present a tremendous threat in early game to any city. Furthermore, they are very cheap to build, and can be produced en-masse quite rapidly.
The only reliable way of halting a catapult is to attack it with another unit, ideally another catapult. Defensively, multiple fortified phalanx units have a fair chance, ideally hidden behind a city wall or perched on some mountains or hills.
The Catapult was the ancient ancestor of Artillery. It was a large mechanical arm that threw heavy stones, fireballs, or other missiles at a great distance. It could pierce or eventually batter down even the strongest gates and walls, while inflicting damage on buildings and the defenders. Though cumbersome and nearly useless on a battlefield, the Catapult was an effective weapon during sieges and attacks on fortified enemies.