Archimedes burning ships with mirrors

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,387
Sydney
#32
the "pulling ships of the water " is simply unbelievable
the lever would be reversed for the crane to have any movement
I.E. the short end would be on shore , the long side extended to the water

a ship would be around 200 tons , fully rigged with troops on boards
if they stand offshore at fifty meters the force needed to lift them is way above what was available
and I'm throwing a couple of elephants for good measures
the forces on the beam would simply snap it , unless it was made of cantilevered steel

the normal way of disabling ships is to throw heavy object on them
wooden ships have the structural integrity of eggshells
strong on static forces , weak on shock resistance
 
Mar 2018
724
UK
#34
-I think i once had someone suggest to me that perhaps the defenders somehow first managed to coat the roman ships with a substance similar to the later Byzantine "automatic fire" which had a much lower ignition temperature. That's probably not as impressive as setting a wooden ship on fire using mirrors alone, but if you were just looking for a way to surprise the enemy or set them on fire at the right time from a distance that would probably be a plausable option.
Well that's a thoroughly stupid idea. If the defenders were capable of getting close enough to the ships to smear them in a substance, why not just set the ships on fire there and then?

Honestly, I don't get this desperation to clutch at straws. It never happened, for all the reasons Dan Howard listed above.
 
Apr 2018
279
USA
#35
Well that's a thoroughly stupid idea. If the defenders were capable of getting close enough to the ships to smear them in a substance, why not just set the ships on fire there and then?
Whether or not something like it was used at the siege of Syracuse, "automatic fire" was a real thing at various points in time so i don't think i would call it a stupid idea. 3rd century historian Sextus Julius Africanus' description was that someone could sneak into an enemy camp in the evening, secretly smear the substance on a bunch of stuff, then the next day around noon the heat from the sun would eventually be strong enough to cause a sudden ignition.
 

Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,359
Australia
#36
Africanus said, "This is the recipe: take equal amounts of sulphur, rock salt, ashes, thunder stone, and pyrite and pound fine in a black mortar at midday sun. Also in equal amounts of each ingredient mix together black mulberry resin and Zakynthian asphault, the latter in a liquid form and free-flowing, resulting in a product that is sooty colored. Then add to the asphalt the tiniest amount of quicklime. But because the sun is at its zenith, one must pound it carefully and protect the face, for it will ignite suddenly."

Regarding using it against the enemy: When it catches fire, one should seal it in some sort of copper receptacle; in this way you will have it available in a box, without exposing it to the sun. If you should wish to ignite enemy armaments, you will smear it on in the evening, either on the armaments or some other object, but in secret; when the sun comes up, everything will be burnt up.

The translation doesn't make much sense so it is probably wrong but it sounds to me like it is regular Greek fire. Need to see the original text.
 
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