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Siege of Syracuse

The attack was begun by Appius bringing his penthouses, and scaling ladders, and attempting to fix the latter against that part of the wall which abuts on Hexapylus towards the east. At the same time Marcus Claudius Marcellus with sixty quinqueremes was making a descent upon Achradina. Each of these vessels were full of men armed with bows and slings and javelins, with which to dislodge those who fought on the battlements. As well as these vessels he had eight quinqueremes in pairs. Each pair had had their oars removed, one on the larboard and the other on the starboard side, and then had been lashed together on the sides thus left bare.
Sambucae or Harps.
On these double vessels, rowed by the outer oars of each of the pair, they brought up under the walls some engines called "Sambucae," the construction of which was as follows:—A ladder was made four feet broad, and of a height to reach the top of the wall from the place where its foot had to rest; each side of the ladder was protected by a railing, and a covering or pent-house was added overhead. It was then placed so that its foot rested across the sides of the lashed-together vessels, which touched each other with its other extremity protruding a considerable way beyond the prows. On the tops of the masts pulleys were fixed with ropes: and when the engines were about to be used, men standing on the sterns of the vessels drew the ropes tied to the head of the ladder, while others standing on the prows assisted the raising of the machine and kept it steady with long poles. Having then brought the ships close in shore by using the outer oars of both vessels they tried to let the machine down upon the wall. At the head of the ladder was fixed a wooden stage secured on three sides by wicker-shields, upon which stood four men who fought and struggled with those who tried to prevent the Sambuca from being made to rest on the battlements. But when they have fixed it and so got above the level of the top of the wall, the four men unfasten the wicker-shields from either side of the stage, and walk out upon the battlements or towers as the case may be; they are followed by their comrades coming up by the Sambuca, since the ladder's foot is safely secured with ropes and stands upon both the ships. This construction has got the name of "Sambuca," or "Harp," for the natural reason, that when it is raised the combination of the ship and ladder has very much the appearance of such an instrument.

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    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TORMENTUM
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