), the battering-ram,
was used to shake, perforate, and batter down the walls of
Aries, Battering Ram. (From Column of Trajan.)
Aries, Battering Ram.
besieged cities. (Cic.
Off. 1.1. 1
, 35; Caes. Gal. 7.23
; Verg. A. 2.492
; Isid. Orig.
8.11.) It consisted of a large beam, made of the trunk of a tree, especially
of a fir or an ash. To one end was fastened a mass of bronze or iron
(κεφαλή, ἐμβολή, προτομή
resembled in its form the head of a ram. The upper figure in the preceding
woodcut is taken from the bas-reliefs on the Column of Trajan at Rome. It
shows the aries
in its simplest state, and as it was
borne and impelled by human hands, without other assistance. ( “Aries
.) In an improved form, the ram was
surrounded with iron bands, to which rings were attached for the purpose of
suspending it by ropes or chains from a beam fixed transversely over it.
(See the lower figure in the woodcut.) By this contrivance the soldiers were
relieved from the necessity of supporting the weight of the ram, and they
could with ease give it a rapid and forcible motion backwards and forwards.
(Amm. Marc. 23.4.8
“suspenso fortior ictu,
The use of this machine was further aided by placing the frame (κριοδόχη
) in which it was suspended upon wheels,
and also by constructing over it a wooden roof, so as to form a testudo
Appian, Bell. Mithr.
73; testudo arietaria,
), which protected the besieging
party from the defensive assaults of the besieged, while by an arrangement
of stories the aries
could be made to play on the
walls of the besieged place or different heights. Josephus, who gives a
description of the machine (B. J.
3.7.19), adds, that there
was no tower so strong, no wall so thick, as to resist the force of this
machine, if its blows were continued long enough. The beam of the aries
was often of great length, e. g. 80, 100, or
even 120 feet. The design of this was both to act across an intervening
ditch, and to enable those who worked the machine to remain in a position of
comparative security. A hundred men, or even a greater number, were
sometimes employed to strike with the beam. The besieged party endeavoured
to set the testudo
on fire, or to break in its
roof with stones. To protect it against these dangers, it was lined with
ox-hides or with a thick coating of clay. In order to break the aries,
stones and other heavy substances were
dropped from a height, and also nooses and the lupus
[LUPUS] employed to sever it.
Procopius (Bell. Goth.
1.21) describes the machine in which
was placed, as a small house resting on
four pillars, the sides covered with leather, and propelled on four wheels,
containing inside not less than 50 men.
Aries with Testudo. (From the Arch of Septimius Severus.)
Both the aries
and the testudo
are represented on Assyrian monuments. There is, however,
no reference even to the aries
in Greek literature
before the siege of Plataea (Thuc. 2.76
however, it has not gained its characteristic name, but is called ἐμβολή
). We may dismiss the statement of Pliny
(Plin. Nat. 7.202
) that the wooden
horse at the siege of Troy was an aries.
) attributes the
Assyrian Aries and Testudo. (Layard's
invention of the simple ram to the Carthaginians at the siege of
Gades; of the suspended ram to a Tyrian, Pephrasmenos, on the same occasion;
of the testudo
to Ceras of Chalcedon, but he
too appears in Athenaeus as Geras the Carthaginian.
first became an important military engine
in the hands of the Macedonians, at the time of Philip and Alexander the
Great. Vitruvius (l.c.
), who gives copious extracts
from the treatise of Diades on the subject, speaks of Polydus, a Thessalian,
in the time of Philip, who greatly improved the machine, and his
improvements were carried out still further by Diades and Chaereas, who
served in the campaigns of Alexander the Great. The Romans learnt from the
Greeks the art of building these machines, and appear to have employed them
for the first time to any considerable extent in the siege of Syracuse in
the second Punic war; on which occasion Censorinus employed two, one of
which required 6000 legionaries to bring it up to the walls (App. de
is so called, according to Vegetius (4.14),
not because its head resembled a ram's head, but because it butted the wall
like a ram fighting: so he derives the name of the testudo
from the appearances and disappearances of the aries,
which recalled the action of a tortoise in
putting out and drawing back its head under its shell: the name, however,
may be taken from the resemblance of the protection given by the testudo
to that given to the tortoise by its shell.
Vitruvius thinks that the point of resemblance was its slowness of motion
when being moved up to the walls of a city. [p. 1.187]
(Rüstow, Griech. Kriegschriftsteller,
309; Becker-Marquardt, Röm. Alterth.
3.2, p. 472