The word Caltrop is derived from the old English alcatrippe (heel-trap), but the weapon dates back to ancient times when they were used by Alexander the Great and by the Ancient Romans were they used in the Battle of Carrhae in 53BC. The weapon is classed as an area denial weapon and used to prevent passage of an adversary and often acted as a passive fortification tactic. The weapon was often thrown into battlegrounds and served to slow the advancement of troops, horses and chariots and was one of the most commonly used medieval weapons. A handful of caltrops would be placed over a small area where advancing armies were expected to travel. Since they were small, enemies were unable to detect their presence until the damage had already been done, thus serving as a useful defence.
Caltrops were popular during the Medieval period because they were small, cheap and easy to produce. The popularity of caltrops continued through the Medieval era and into the modern day. Caltrops were used during both World War I and II, and variants have been produced within today’s special forces and law enforcement bodies, to deflate vehicle tires.