Age of Empires Series Wiki
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This article is about the unit in Age of Empires. For other uses, see Ballista.

Used to attack military units, buildings, and walls.
Age of Empires description

The Ballista (plural Ballistas or Ballistae) is a siege unit in Age of Empires. It has a strong attack and fires twice as fast as the Stone Thrower and its upgrades, but is very fragile and should be supplemented with non-siege weapons when sent into battle.

It is the predecessor of the Scorpion of Age of Empires II and the Springald of Age of Empires IV.


Aoede ballista available Available Aoede ballista unavailable Unavailable


The Ballista, like other siege weapons, is built at the Siege Workshop. This ranged weapon can be upgraded into the Helepolis (before Return of Rome, only when Craftsmanship is researched).

While less powerful than the Stone Thrower, it is more effective against units, having a faster projectile and a faster firing rate as well, which makes it a good counter to infantry and Priests.

Further statistics[]

Strengths and weaknesses
Strong vs. Infantry, ships
Weak vs. Catapults
Attack Alchemy Alchemy (+1)
Range Engineering Engineering (+2)
Accuracy Ballistics Ballistics (hit moving targets)
Creation speed RoR Conscription Conscription (+25%)
Other Returnofrome helepolis icon Helepolis (+5 attack, +1 range, +45% attack speed)
Civilization bonuses
Range Romans AoE Romans (+1)
Armor Lac Viet AoE Lac Viet (+2/0)
Conversion resistance Macedonians AoE Macedonians (4x)
Resource cost Macedonians AoE Macedonians (-25%)
Creation speed Lac Viet AoE Lac Viet (+25%)
Team bonuses
Creation speed Assyrians AoE Assyrians (+20%)

Indirect civilization bonuses[]

  • Assyrians AoE Assyrians: Upgrading Ballistae to Helipolises is 50% cheaper.*

Indirect team bonuses[]

  • Assyrians AoE Assyrians: Ballistae are upgraded to Helepolises 20% faster.
  • Palmyrans AoE Palmyrans: Upgrading Ballistae to Helepolises and researching technologies that benefit Ballistae is 30% faster.


ReturnRome-AoEIcon Age of Empires[]

  • Ballistae have 3.0 reload time and 4.5 projectile speed.
  • Upgrading Ballistae to Helepolises costs 1,500 food, 1,000 wood.
  • Ballistae can be upgraded to Helepolises only if Craftsmanship is researched.

Age of Empires Definitive Edition icon Definitive Edition[]

  • Ballistae have 4.9 projectile speed.
  • With update 46777, Ballistae have 2.7 reload time and upgrading Ballistae to Helepolises costs 1,200 food, 1,000 wood.

AoE2Icon-ReturnRome Return of Rome[]

  • Ballistae have 3.1 reload time, 7.2 projectile speed, and upgrading Ballistae to Helepolises costs 1,500 food, 1,000 wood. With hotfix 85208, Ballistae have 2.7 reload time, 4.067 projectile speed, and upgrading Ballistae to Helepolises costs 1,200 food, 1,000 wood.
  • Researching Craftsmanship is no longer required to upgrade Ballistae to Helepolises.
  • Assyrians: Upgrading Ballistae to Helepolises is 50% cheaper.
  • Romans AoE Romans: Ballistae have +1 range.
  • Team bonuses added:
    • Assyrians AoE Assyrians: Ballistae are trained and upgraded 20% faster.
    • Palmyrans AoE Palmyrans: Technologies benefiting Ballistae are researched 30% faster.
  • With update 87863, Lac Viet Ballistae have +2 melee armor.


The ballista was an early artillery weapon that fired missiles, primarily large bolts or spears. It was used in attacks on cities or fortified positions because it could cause structural damage and casualties from a great distance. When it could be deployed on a battlefield, it was especially useful against dense formations of troops. In this situation, one shot could cause multiple casualties. The ballista was invented in the second half of the first millennium B.C., probably by Greek engineers. It functioned like a large crossbow. Tension was built up in the engine by twisting leather, and then released, propelling the missile down a guided trough and into flight.
Age of Empires manual

While the manual history section describes the energy source to be the tension in the twisted leather cords (referring to torsion engines), the in-game Ballista has no such cordage, and instead works on the same principle of a handheld bow, which is tension from the bending of its recurved bow limbs. Real-life ballistae came in various forms, from the one shown in game to massive ones using cordage under tension shooting rock projectiles, utilized by the Romans.


  • Despite being a siege unit, it does not deal bonus damage against buildings.
  • Due to the fast fire rate at a long range, the unit may still fire a bolt or two within a fraction of a second even after the enemy unit is eliminated.
  • Typing ICBM allows the player to upgrade the Ballista's range by 90 points, bumping the total up to 100 range points.
    • Although the firing range will be improved, the line of sight still remains the same. As such, it cannot attack enemy units unless the area is explored. Even if the area is fully explored, the Ballista cannot attack moving targets unless the line of sight between itself and the target is revealed. However, it may attack already discovered enemy buildings through the fog of war without the need of additional line of sight.
    • Typing this code before finishing researching Engineering will grant the player an additional 2 range points. This will affect both the firing range and the line of sight.


Tech tree[]

Siege Workshop
AOEDE Archery Range icon Archery Range
Stone Age Icon (DE)
Tool Age Icon (DE)
Bronze Age Icon (DE)
Iron Age Icon (DE)
Aoede stone thrower available
Aoede heavy catapult available

Units in Age of Empires
CivilianReturnofrome female villager icon Villager · Returnofrome trade cart icon Trade Cart
OtherAoE2 DE priest icon Priest · Slinger-0 Slinger · Returnofrome artifact icon Artifact
Civilian ship1 Fishing Boat Fishing Boat · 2 Fishing Ship Fishing Ship
3 Trade Boat Trade Boat · 4 Merchant Ship Merchant Ship
InfantryClubman Clubman · AxemanAoEDE Axeman
Short Swordsman Short Swordsman · Broad Swordsman Broad Swordsman · AoE nuRoR Long Swordsman icon Long Swordsmen · Returnofrome legionary icon Legionary
HopliteDE Hoplite · AoE nuRoR Phalangite icon Phalangite · Returnofrome centurion icon Centurion
ArcherBowman aoe1de Bowman
Improved Bowman22 Improved Bowman · Composite Bowman Composite Bowman
Chariot Archer111 Chariot Archer
Horse Archer Horse Archer · Returnofrome heavy horse archer icon Heavy Horse Archer
EAICON DE Elephant Archer
CavalryScout-0 Scout
ChariotDE Chariot · ScytheDE Scythe Chariot
Cavalry111 Cavalry · Returnofrome heavy cavalry icon Heavy Cavalry · Returnofrome cataphract icon Cataphract
War ElephantDE War Elephant · Returnofrome armored elephant icon Armored Elephant
Camel RiderDE Camel Rider
SiegeStone ThrowerDE Stone Thrower · CatapultDE Catapult · Returnofrome heavy catapult icon Heavy Catapult
BallistaDE Ballista · Returnofrome helepolis icon Helepolis
War Ship7 Scout Ship Scout Ship · 8 War Galley War Galley · 9 Trireme Trireme
Catapult Trireme Catapult Trireme · Returnofrome juggernaut icon Juggernaut
10 Fire Galley Fire Galley
5 Light Transport Light Transport · 6 Heavy Transport Heavy Transport
Scenario Editor-only units
Short Swordsman Chieftain · Donkey caravan aoe2DE Donkey · Clubman Explorer · Returnofrome heavy cavalry icon General · AoE2 DE priest icon High Priest · Returnofrome horse icon Horse · HeavyCavalryDE Mercenary (removed) · Penguin aoe2DE Penguin · AoE2 DE priest icon Pharaoh · 5 Light Transport Raft · Returnofrome artifact icon War Chest