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Old October 31st, 2012, 10:27 AM   #1

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Ancient Siege Engines

I'm intrigued by ancient technologies used in weapons making from a technical point of view.
Forget personal weapons for a moment, I'm thinking of battering rams, siege towers and the like.
For me, they define the ultimate use of these technologies. I know some armies had portable siege equipment (the Augustan Roman legions and Philip of Macedon's army for example), but this consisted mainly of artillery that was transported in component form.
Consider this machine as an engineering project however -

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helepolis"]Helepolis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

I wonder how Demetrios' engineers expected it to move easily towards the walls of Rhodes, considering the weight of the tower and the terrain it was going to cross? Or was it a psychological weapon, built to terrify the Rhodians?

I will also mention Archimedes' engines used against the Romans, which were used in the defence of Syracuse. A machine that pulled ships from the water...? I don't imagine there was a prototype, or a development of an existing machine.

[ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Claw_of_Archimedes"]Claw of Archimedes - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/ame]

Lastly, Assyrian reliefs show siege weaponry that was still recognizable in the 15th century AD - were they the first army to use them?

I welcome your comments.
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Old October 31st, 2012, 10:55 AM   #2

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Interesting thread Occam. I can provide you with some sources to read one of which should be able to answer your queries about the Helepolis, on how it was probably utilised and transported, etc etc.

Byzantine Heavy Artillery-GTDennis

Also, this is a good source for Roman siegecraft. Its lengthy, but a very insightful re-assessment. Its the doctoral thesis that was written by Duncan B Campbell, who is a popular scholar on Greek and Roman warfare, and went on to write a few well received books, and columns for Ancient warfare magazine.


Hope you enjoy these!
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Old November 1st, 2012, 06:01 AM   #3

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If you are interested in some Roman siege weapons, here's an excerpt from an older thread

Originally Posted by M.E.T.H.O.D. View Post


BALLISTA: a torsion-powered siege weapon firing giant darts or projectiles
SCORPIO: a weapon similar to the ballista but smaller, commonly used on the battlefield
BALLISTARI: artillery soldiers
CATAPULTA: a Roman catapult
ONAGER: another siege weapon sharing several similarities with the catapult(usually smaller)
CARROBALISTA:a ballista installed on a oxcart
LILIA: small sharp-pointed stakes partially buried into the ground
STIMULI: barbed hooks partially buried into the ground
VINEA: mobile roof built with wood,wicker and animal skins;used to protect the soldiers during a siege
MUSCULUS: heavier version of the vinea, usually installed on a wheeled support and equipped with doors
ARIES:the Roman battering ram
ARIES PENSILIS: battering ram hung with ropes to a wooden structure,more powerful than the regular battering ram
TESTUDO ARIETATA:a battering ram with its entire body protected by a wooden structure padded with animal skins
ARIES SUBROLATUS: a battering ram mouted on a wheeled structure
ARIES VERSATILIS a battering ram mounted on a sledge equipped with rollers
TEREBRA: siege weapon with a giant sharped tip(similar to a drill) used to make holes in the enemy walls in order to weake the structure before the use of battering rams
FALX MURARIA: giant staff with a metal hook used to remove shaken stones from the enemy walls
LUPUS: a giant pair of pincers employed to immobilize the heads of hostile battering rams
TURRIS AMBULATORIA VEL CURULIS VEL OPPUGNATORIA: mobile siege tower housing Roman soldiers ready to assault hostile walls with the assault bridge("Exostra"); this siege tower usually consisted of three stories
PLUTEUS: a small mobile(wheeled) cover made from wood and covered with animal skins, it was used to protect important siege weapons like siege towers and battering rams

Originally Posted by M.E.T.H.O.D. View Post
Some pictures

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CARROBALISTA(with horses instead of oxen)
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Old November 2nd, 2012, 08:36 AM   #4

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Many thanks for the info, Mangekyou and M.E.T.H.O.D.; I'll certainly look at the sources, and the pictures are most informative.
Obviously Roman and Byzantine weaponry was based on what I would guess was hundreds of years experience and knowledge in that type of warfare. It was certainly specialized, but not rarely used; which is why it interests me.
Of course, there were advances in defensive architecture that ran parallel with the development of siege machinery; that will be another thread!!
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