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Archimedes

With such contrivances and preparations were the Romans intending to assault the towers.
The engines invented by Archimedes. Cf. Plut. Marcellus, 15.
But Archimedes had constructed catapults to suit every range; and as the ships sailing up were still at a considerable distance, he so wounded the enemy with stones and darts, from the tighter wound and longer engines, as to harass and perplex them to the last degree; and when these began to carry over their heads, he used smaller engines graduated according to the range required from time to time, and by this means caused so much confusion among them as to altogether check their advance and attack; and finally Marcellus was reduced in despair to bringing up his ships under cover of night. But when they had come close to land, and so too near to be hit by the catapults, they found that Archimedes had prepared another contrivance against the soldiers who fought from the decks. He had pierced the wall as high as a man's stature with numerous loop-holes, which, on the outside, were about as big as the palm of the hand. Inside the wall he stationed archers and cross-bows, or scorpions,1 and by the volleys discharged through these he made the marines useless. By these means he not only baffled the enemy, whether at a distance or close at hand, but also killed the greater number of them. As often, too, as they tried to work their Sambucae, he had engines ready all along the walls, not visible at other times, but which suddenly reared themselves above the wall from inside, when the moment for their use had come, and stretched their beams far over the battlements, some of them carrying stones weighing as much as ten talents, and others great masses of lead. So whenever the Sambucae were approaching, these beams swung round on their pivot the required distance, and by means of a rope running through a pulley dropped the stone upon the Sambucae, with the result that it not only smashed the machine itself to pieces, but put the ship also and all on board into the most serious danger.
570 lbs. av.

1 σκορπίδια, mentioned among a number of similar engines in 1 Macc. 6, 51. Plutarch calls them σκορπίοι, and explains that they only carried a short distance, but, being concealed, gave wounds at close quarters; hence, doubtless, their name.

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hide References (3 total)
  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), ARCUBALLISTA
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), TORMENTUM
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (1):
    • Plutarch, Marcellus, 15
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