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Section nnn
This webpage reproduces a section of
A Description of the Trajan Column
by John Hungerford Pollen

printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode,
printers to Queen Victoria
London, 1874

Text and engravings are in the public domain.
Any color photographs are © William P. Thayer 1997-


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Section nnn

The artillery and siege trains of the Trajan column


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Fig. 10. Dacian Balista. Mounted as a wall piece.

p35 One of the most interesting features in the sculptures of the Trajan Column is the representation, difficult to meet with elsewhere, of the artillery of the Romans.

The Romans well understood the advantage, not only of being able to inflict loss on an enemy at long ranges, while he was too distant to annoy their own troops, but also of the moral weight which the possession of mechanical contrivances for this purpose would give them. Some advantage was gained by the Carthaginians when they brought elephants into battle. Besides being formidable in the actual shock of battle, those monsters inspired terror from their size, their supposed ferocity, and the prevailing ignorance about them. In more ancient times the weight, size and space of ground covered by ranks of armed chariots, in the Asiatic and Greek armies, the mere noise produced by these vehicles, the roar of a thousand wheels (without springs) rolling over rough ground, probably contributed to demoralize an enemy before any actual contact with the rank or phalanx of spearmen.35 The Romans however did not employ chariots, and the strength of their army was the infantry. But as they had to encounter troops of every nationality, often outnumbering their own, they carefully developed the inventions of the Greeks for projecting darts, arrows, and stones.

It is not easy to trace the first invention or adoption of mechanical contrivances for throwing to a distance projectiles heavier or more destructive than could be cast by the immemorial bow or by slings. Both those methods of striking at a distance were in use by the Greeks and by the older Asiatic nations, including the Jews. There have p36been at all times also races famous for their skilful training in this respect, and probably gifted with quickness, brightness of sight, and other bodily advantages that fitted certain families or tribes for archery or slinging better than their contemporaries. Thus the city of Gebar, in Judaea, numbered 700 left-handed men who were slingers of such skill that they could strike a hair and not miss,36 a perfection probably not surpassed by the slingers of the Balearic islands, the Numidian archers of Diocletian, or the famous English yeomen of the middle ages. All these arms are seen in activity on the Trajan Column.

I cannot gather from early records when mechanical forces were first employed to project heavy missiles. Yet in siege operations engines of some sort were no doubt employed from a remote antiquity. "There was a small city, with few men within it, and there came a great king against it, and beleaguered it, and built great bulwarks against it. And there was found in it a poor wise man and he by his wisdom delivered the city."37 This seems to imply an unusual appliance of mechanical skill. In the third century B.C., Archimedes invented and developed warlike engines of various kinds, which were made for Hiero, and were used at a later period in the defence of Syracuse against Marcellus. Whether his levers could actually lift any Roman vessels of war, other than light row galleys, or his burning glasses could set fire to them, according to the tradition, may be questioned; but his inventions in the way of artillery for projecting weights, darts, and combustibles were probably of efficacy sufficient to keep the whole Roman fleet at a safe distance, and turn the siege of the place into a blockade.

Ctesibius of Alexandria, who lived during the third century B.C taught mathematics and military engineering, and founded a school, or instructed pupils, amongst whom was Heron, at Alexandria. In the Island of Rhodes these sciences were understood and taught, and the Romans got their knowledge from these various schools.

In the time of Caesar, and probably for two centuries before, the Romans seem to have developed the power of this arm of their military establishments as far as the propelling forces at their command would allow. Probably Greek engineers continued to be the designers of the best and most effective of Roman engines. Various engines are seen on the Column, both in the form of moveable artillery and in other contrivances for the attack of walled towns, which p37may be termed the field artillery and siege train of Trajan. The field artillery or movable engines followed the march, and amongst the legionaries were engineers, artisans, and workmen, as well as a number of trained artillerymen competent to move and serve their various pieces. They had also amongst the engineers men able, as we shall see in the course of these sculptures, to construct bridges, as well as architects prepared to give plans and superintend the execution of fora, baths, theatres, amphitheatres, &c. in the military stations, which were made permanent, fortified, and provided with these resorts of business, pleasure, or convenience as soon as possible after their occupation as fortified camps.

A book called Mathematici Veteres containing several treatises on the siege operations of the ancients, including the construction of warlike engines, was published by Thevenot Boivin and Lahire in the reign of Louis XIV.38 This book has become very scarce, and the authors whose treatises it contained have been re-edited by M. Wescher.39 The work contains a treatise by Heron of Alexandria, pupil of Ctesibius, on the smaller engines, χειροβαλλίστρων κατασκευὴ καὶ συμμετρία. Heron wrote about the middle of the third century, B.C. He was the inventor of certain kinds of fountains, and of the application of steam as a motive power. It is said that engines on his plan are still in use in Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland.40

2. A treatise by Athenaeus, a contemporary of Ctesibius in the second century B.C. He wrote on warlike engines περὶ μηχανημάτα addressed to Marcellus.

3. A treatise on the structure of warlike engines, κατασκευαὶ πολεμικῶν ὀργάνων by Biton.

4. Parts of the Πολιορκητικά of Apollodorus, addressed to the emperor Hadrian.

5. Fragments of treatises by Athenaeus, Biton, Heron, Apollodorus and Philon of Byzantium, a contemporary of Ctesibius, who treats of the Greek fire, and various methods of attacking walled towns and fortified places.

We may divide the engines described in the treatises, many of which are sculptured on the column, into two classes. 1. Those that were moveable and made for projecting darts or for projecting stones, or those for projecting both stones and darts. These engines were known as scorpiones, balistae, catapultae, and onagri, names which p38seem to have been used with some confusion, and to have been shifted by different writers from one to another of these machines. Thus in speaking of the distinction used by Vitruvius, Philander his commentator says "nemo non videt (hoc capite) catapultis et scorpionibus mitti sagittas, balistis autem jaci lapides." Again he refers to Caesar, Bell. Gall. I., Valerius Maximus I, and Cicero, Tusc. II, as affirming that catapultae projected stones, and balistae flint balls. Ammianus Marcellinus, Amm. Marcell.  b. XXIII, maintains that scorpiones projected stones, and balistae arrows.41 On the other hand, Vegetius, who lived at a later period, declares, LIV, that the balistae were used for both classes of projectiles. It is, however, to be remembered that the words or names had probably ceased in his time to bear the same exactness of meaning that had originally been intended, and that engines of projection were called by both names.

2. The other division, complicated machines and siege artillery, would include the contrivances of various kinds used in attacking fortified places. The Romans had from an early date certain rough and ready resources for attacking fortified walls. One which was common to all antiquity was the simple resource of piling up a mound of earth equal to the height of the walls, so as to carry the place by storm. Another was the testudo, which consisted in the soldiers kneeling, stooping, and standing in close order, and placing their oblong shields edge to edge, so as to form a sloping platform or penthouse, on the top of which other ranks of combatants could climb, and others above them. Above the top rank the men could run up to the parapet as up a mound. This contrivance, however, could only be put in practice when the walls were low, perhaps those of fortified camps, towns hastily walled, and the like. The testudo will be seen in action on the column No. XXIII. Rams of various form were also used, some fitted in or over covered sheds, on wheels or rollers, and moveable up to the edge of a fosse, or the base of a wall to be used for battering: Musculi, covered sheds to contain machinery such as the falx, for boring or mining; towers, platforms, or moveable scaffolds, from which ladders could be laid; ladders with shields on stages contrived to be brought close to the besieged walls; methods of hoisting and lowering swinging bridges and boxes filled with armed men on the walls; methods of projecting fire and combustibles: and platforms and moveable bridges adapted to the decks of ships or boats.

If the later emperors were weak as generals or handled degenerate armies, they had at least the experience of twelve p39centuries in the art of war to guide them, and had profited by every successive mechanical warlike invention of their predecessors. I shall attempt no more than a brief description of such engines as are represented on the column, and of such methods of fortifying walled oppida and engineering works as may there be studied, illustrated by reference to Vitruvius and to some fortifications more completely described in Caesar. I begin with some account of the —

Field artillery of the time of Trajan

The smallest of the projecting engines could be handled by one man. It was called χειροβαλλίστρον, and is illustrated by the accompanying figure.


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Fig. 11.

This machine is so like the medieval crossbow that we need not describe it in detail. The motive power is a thick but elastic bow of wood or steel. In the central beam A, B, a piece of wood C, D, is keyed by a dovetailed tenon, and a small tongue of metal in the upper piece drops into toothings in the lower. This piece is shifted up to the string before it can be drawn back, the tongue and toothing keeping the cord from slipping during the action. The tumbler hook E, cleft in the middle so as to hold the upper end of the dart or arrow G, revolves on a central pin. This hook is kept from revolving by the piece F, which turns on a pin H (in diagram 12). When this is pulled back the tumbler is let go, the string released, and the arrow projected. It will be noticed that the missile is an arrow with the featherings, to keep it steady in its flight; not as was the case with the charge of the mediaeval crossbow, a short bolt armed with an iron head.


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Fig. 12.

p40
Motive powers of large engines

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Fig. 13.

The engine (of which this figure is from Vitruvius) is of the same nature as the last, but the motive power is different, and it is on a scale large enough to allow it to rank as a piece of artillery, and will be seen frequently sculptured on the column. When required for field artillery, or as a moveable piece to be handled in action and manoeuvred about during an engagement, these pieces are seen mounted on wheels. They are set on rectangular platforms, resembling in form the modern London water-cart, and of about the same size. They were called Carrobalistae. The arrows were discharged over the heads of the mules or horses that drew the piece as in No. XXVIII. When on walls or entrenchments, as in the wooden rampart represented in No. LI, or on the walls of a town, as in the same number, they were mounted on a turntable, supported by a massive column of wood.


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Fig. 14.


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Fig. 15.

The motive power used in these large machines may be illustrated by the accompanying diagrams. A, B, C, D, figure 15, is a frame consisting of thick planks connected by four uprights E, E, AB, DC. The uprights divide this portion into three. The side compartments have two round holes (F, F, on plan) bored in the centres of the upper and lower planks. These borings are placed at certain p41angles with the central parts, as in the annexed plan. Through these holes are passed a number of ropes G, G, made of gut, nerves (those of the necks of oxen being preferred), or of women's hair.42 These ropes were strained by witches till each rope, when struck, was tuned to the same note, thence spoken of as τόνοι, tones. They passed through each hole and were secured over a metal pin, somewhat larger than the diameter of the opening; and when the opening was so filled that the last length of the rope passed with difficulty, the end was secured by paying it round with fine cord (as loops are secured in the rigging of ships).

When this mass of ropes was strained in both compartments to an exactly equal degree tested by the sound as above stated (the rope being stretched to two-thirds of its original thickness), two arms or levers H, H were passed through the middle of the two masses of rope. They were drawn inwards and united to each other by a cord.

The whole engine, as seen in the woodcut No. 13, was something like a crossbow or χειροβαλλίστρον, on a very large scale. The elasticity of the bow is replaced partly by the arms or levers, which were made of elastic wood or of tempered steel, but mostly by the action of the strained ropes C, C.

p42 These engines were mounted on turntables formed as is shown in the first figure. K, K, K, in fig. 13, is a strong wooden frame with a thick board at the base a, a, and another at b, b. L is a solid column of timber with a smaller column M (in dotted lines) at a certain height (about 4 feet). The column rests on three timber feet N, N, N, and the smaller neck M passes through the pieces a, a, and b, b, so that the frame K, K, K, rests on the shoulder of the larger column, and can be turned in any direction. The machine swings in the upper part of the frame K, K, K, on a metal axle c, and is balanced so that it can be elevated or depressed. The jointed rest O, O, O, keeps it at the elevation required, and as this rest is made to shift round the column the piece can be turned, elevated, or depressed in any direction required.

The catapult for hurling stones is made on the same principle, as will be seen on reference to fig. 17. The construction is stronger, and there are screws for tightening the strained cords at a, a, b, b. The force required to wind up the string being greater than in the case of the smaller and more handy engines, the pulleys and ropes used for this purpose were made fast to walls, posts, or whatever could be conveniently made to serve as a sufficient fulcrum, not to the beam of the piece itself.

Another kind of engine was called an onager, or wild ass.43 These engines were provided with one set of ropes instead of two, strained horizontally for one side of the whole engine to the other. A single lever twisted into the ropes was drawn back by two winches, worked by two men each, till it had described two-thirds of a semicircle, and fastened by a hook and stay, as the cord of the balista. To the end was attached a sling containing a round flint ball. The magister when all was ready, struck the small metal stay or trigger a smart blow with a mallet, and the lever being released flew back, hurling the flint ball from the sling in a parabolic flight. The name scorpio was sometimes given to an engine of this description.44 The Greeks in some of their balistas seem to have used actual steel bows, instead of ropes as in the accompanying, taken from the diagram of Biton, in which the sling for stones, shown at A, is in addition to the apparatus for discharging darts.45 p43The apparatus for hooking and holding the string, holding and releasing the hook, and discharging the projectile, is the same as we have seen used for the smaller engine. The board or bar on which the string moved was drawn down along with the cord and provided with a tongue to catch in the teeth cut in the lower frame. This lower frame is prolonged and made to contain a winch P in fig. 13 that was turned by two or four men.


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Fig. 16.

In all engines it was of the utmost importance that string of the balista and the lever of the horizontal engine should be protected from the effect of the discharge, the string being liable to strike the fore part of the frame that contained the ropes and the lever to strike the fore framework of the onager with still more violence. For this reason these portions were padded with pillows46 of hair and sacking, and the same was done in the case of the onager, the fore part of which was padded either with a thick hair cushion or heaps of turf. The force of the discharge was so great in the latter case, that the parapet of any wall on which it was mounted would be loosened and thrown down by the concussion.47 In the case of the balista, to make the bow of which there were two arms and two sets of tension ropes, it was of the utmost importance that p44the mass of ropes on each side should be of one tone or strained to the same pitch (tested in the case of each rope by the ear), otherwise the force of the discharge would not be equal in both arms, the momentum of the projectile would be diminished, and the flight, it was supposed, would be erratic.

Minute directions are given in Vitruvius, who follows the Greek engineers, as to the proper method of straining and fastening the ropes, as also for the proportions of the parts. The force of the engine to which the length and size of the projectile were proportioned depended on the size of the openings through which the ropes passed and where they were held, the amount of the motive power being regulated by the larger or smaller number of ropes that could pass through these holes or bores, and the greater or less momentum they could impart to the projectiles. The bore was the test of power of the engine.

Catapults for hurling stones were made of all sorts of calibres, bores, or power. The lightest were made to throw stones of 2 or 3 pounds in weight, others for heavier stones, increasing (if Vitruvius is to be believed) to 300 and 350 lbs. Much, however, of his descriptions is to be received with caution.48

Not only stones but beams were projected from some of these engines. Josephus speaks of them as battering down great masses of masonry, and destroying ranks of men at single discharges. They could disable a hostile vessel in action, so as to prevent her making her port, by breaking her masts, staving in planking, &c.


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Fig. 17.

p45
Numbers used in the field

The numbers of engines used in Trajan's time in the field cannot be stated. Vegetius Renatus wrote in the time of Valentinian, and his treatise is drawn from all kinds of authorities. As, however, one source of his information was the imperial decrees of Augustus, Trajan, and Hadrian he is probably to be depended on for the details he gives of the artillery of the two last emperors, and of its condition in his own day. According to this author each centurio was provided with one carrobalista, and the number of soldiers required to man each piece was eleven. Fifty-five such pieces accompanied the legion. Besides these pieces, ten onagri were assigned to the legion, one to every co, each being drawn on a carriage by oxen; on the column they are drawn by mules.49 p46

Siege engines

Mention has already been made of a sort of pontoon train, Scaphas de singulis trabibus50 boats or canoes hollowed out of logs of timber, with long ropes or iron chains, on which planks can be laid and bridges constructed. If such small boats are not seen to have been used by Trajan, the reason probably was because the rivers he crossed were navigated by boats in numbers more than were required for these purposes, and which kept pace with the advance of his expedition.

For siege operations such as are shown on the column, a great variety of mechanical contrivances were in use derived mostly from the Greek engineers, perhaps occasionally improved by Roman artificers. The authors in the Poliorcétique give diagrams of different forms of moveable sheds. Of the battering ram there were several varieties. To some were attached covered sheds and machinery, such as drills to bore the walls, of which the axle was turned by a large bow and cord.

Musculi, Muscles were sheds covered first with boards then in some instances with bricks and mortar, and over these with skins to protect the wet mortar from disintegration by water thrown on it, and over the skins with old cloth rags to preserve the skins from fire. The shed here represented is taken from the Poliorcétique. Caesar describes such a construction as nine feet long.


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Fig. 18.

It was a shed erected on two beams laid parallel to each other four feet apart, supported by short pillars five feet high covered with boards protected by metal plates and fastened with nails of metal, roofed over with brick vaulting as described.51 Musculi were pushed forward on rollers or wheels, and prepared the way for the turres ambulatoriae, moveable towers, of p47which the example here given was constructed by Caesar at Alessia.52


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Fig. 19.


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Fig. 20.

The angles of the turres ambulatoriae were made of fir or other poles nailed together, as in the accompanying woodcut from Jules César. The stages or floors were made of timber covered with hurdles and protected at the sides by the same materials. The Musculus prepared the ground for these towers. The name was derived from that of the musculus, a fish supposed by the ancients to act as a guide to the whale, which animal, according to Pliny,53 could see with difficulty. These small covered sheds beat the ground flat for the advance of larger and more unwieldy towers. The advanced lines or trenches of besiegers were further protected by vineae, sheds covered with wattle hurdles, and by bridges from one temporary tower to another. According to Vegetius,54 vineae were sixteen feet long, seven broad, and were supported on posts eight feet high. Other forms of sheds were pushed to the foot of the wall and protected the men employed in mining. Of these engineering works several are shown on the column, in the greatest and most important siege by which the last stronghold of Decebalus was taken in the second war. Several seem in that composition to have had their coverings destroyed and to have been abandoned. All the engines in that bas-relief are such as Vegetius called plutei.55 They stand on three wheels, two p48in front and one under the rear. They are armed with the falx. The falx was a strong iron hook curved into the shape of a sickle; as soon as a stone had been displaced by mining, the hook was introduced and the whole weight of the engine applied to drag the surrounding stones out of the wall and to form a breach. The falx in the engines alluded to is fixed on the end of the axle of the fore-wheels. The axles are made to turn, the wheels having been jammed by means of handspikes or fixed bars which are shown in the sculpture. What is not shown is a covering shed to protect the men at work. Behind the rear wheel of the engines described there is a long bar or pole jointed into the axle, the other end of which passes through a round cage like the top that surmounted the mast of mediaeval ships. This was hoisted up by ropes round the windlass already mentioned and could be dropped on the parapet of the walls, or from it three or four men could annoy the defenders with arrows.

Platforms or cages to hold armed men were made to slide up and down between lofty standards planted outside their four corners, raised by means of chains and pulleys; or were contrived to be pushed up one inside another in the fashion of telescopes; or were screwed up by one great screw press under the centre. Some were swung at one end of a beam which was poised on its middle, so that the frame could be swung on the parapet of a wall, and withdrawn by ropes at the other end of the beam. A number of other ingenious methods of annoying the besieged or undermining their walls are propounded by the Greek engineers, but as they do not figure in the operations of Trajan in his Dacian war, they need not be discussed further. It may also be reasonably doubted whether amongst these contrivances there are not some which never went beyond the pages of mathematical treatises. A ram is represented in No. XXIII as worked by the Dacians by hand. It is mounted at the end of a long piece of timber and hammered by the vigorous arms of a number of men against the wall of a Roman stronghold. The figure of a ram, Fig. 21, roofed to protect a storming party is from the arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.

There were many constructions adapted to vessels of war, fitted on the decks of boats and intended to operate against sea walls and fortifications. But they have no place in these Trajan sculptures, as the naval operations on the column are confined to transport services.

It will not be without interest to know that examples of the balista and of the engines of Roman warfare have been p49made in modern times. The author of the life of Jules César, the late Emperor Napoleon the Third, had several balistae constructed besides an onager, and helmets, lances, swords, &c. These curious engines and weapons are now in the museum of Roman antiquities at St. Germain-en‑Laye. They are of different sizes and degrees of propelling power, are mounted on wheels, and have something of the imposing appearance of ancient pieces of European or Oriental ordnance. The fore frame of the largest is protected by a mantlet of panelled wood elegantly painted after an antique example. These pieces have been tested at the French artillery ranges, and as I have been informed, made good practice at 600 metres with darts 7 or 8 feet long of oak or ash an inch in diameter tipped and feathered with iron. At that distance several boards were pierced and the missiles were crushed up by the force of the impact from these discharges. The smaller engines were found best as regards accuracy of aim. Great care had to be taken to pad the uprights of the forepart of the structure, lest the string on the arms or bow should be wounded from striking after the discharge.56


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Fig. 21.

These engines continued to be used as long as the Greek empire was in existence and for a long time after the invention of gunpowder and the introduction of cannon.

p50 From the eleventh to the close of the fifteenth centuries they were regularly employed in well appointed armies in Europe, and were carried by sea in pieces or sections to the wars of the crusades. The reduction of Jerusalem under Godfrey and the princes with him could not be completed till heavy and costly battering engines of various kinds, as well as moveable towers provided with platforms and swinging bridges had been constructed and moved to the walls. In addition to the machines of Roman shape and form, the Emperor Napoleon the Third had a number of full-sized machines made for the purpose of ascertaining the range and power of those used in the Middle Ages. "The great projecting engines of the Middle Ages were made of wood, of steel, and even of ornaments, and the bows were sometimes more than 30 feet in length. Colonel Dufour calculates that such a machine could throw an arrow of half a kilogram in weight to a distance of about 860 yards. They were called espringales, and were like exaggerated forms of the crossbow."57

In the ancient armoury of Soest in Westphalia a number of missiles and portions of engines of the early 15th century are still preserved. A fragment of a projectile measures one inch and a half in diameter, and is feathered with iron. Smaller ones measure 16 inches by half an inch in diameter, and are of oak feathered with slips of applewood, placed so as to give a rotatory flight.

The bows of some smaller engines are of wood; others of whalebone about 6 feet to 8 feet in length, arranged in many thicknesses like modern carriage springs.

The trebuchet answered in effect to the onager of the ancients and was of use for vertical projection. It consisted of a tapering beam pivoted on trunnions and having a heavy weight at the short end. The longer portion had a sling holding a stone attached to it. It was drawn down by windlasses, and at the proper moment suddenly released. p51The sling was hurled into the air, a ring at one end slipped over the hook by which it was attached to the beam at an angle of about 45°, and the stone shot upwards in a parabolic course.

The accompanying woodcut is from the Emperor Napoleon: "Passé et l'avenir de l'artillerie.'


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Fig. 22.

Stone shot, beams, putrid carcases to poison the air, even the bodies of living prisoners to inspire terror, could be projected by these engines into besieged places. At the siege of Auberoche an emissary was seized and shot into the town "Si que pour eux plus grever ils prirent le varlet et lui pendirent les lettres au cou, et le mirent tout en un mont en la fonde d'un engin et puis le renvoyèrent dedans Auberoche. Le varlet chéi tout mort devant les chevaliers qui là éstoient, et qui furent moult ébais et deconfortés quand ils le virent."58a The experiments and calculations of Colonel Dufour show that without the sling, other things remaining the same, the range of these machines would be reduced by more than a half. The siege towers and engines were named chats, chats chastel, beffroy, and in English sows, and other names.

Some of these engines were violently pulled by numbers of men who replaced the action of the dead weight of the counterpoise, as numbers of men now jump from a height p52to raise the iron monkeys used in pile driving or in unloading coals and other heavy cargoes on the Thames. "In some of the engines the counterpoise consisting of a timber case filled with stones, sand and the like, was permanently fixed to the butt end of the shaft. This seems to have been the 'Trebuchet' proper. In others the counterpoise hung free on a pivot from the yard, while a third kind combined both arrangements. The first kind shot most steadily and truly, the second with more force."58b

The Emperor Napoleon caused a trebuchet to be made with a shaft of 33 ft. 9 in. and a pivoted counterweight of 6,600 lbs. in addition. This engine could not carry a 24 kilo. shot beyond 191 yards, and the piece was much damaged by the concussion of each discharge. It was found, however, that by increasing the strength and size of the machine there would be nothing impracticable in projecting at long ranges projectiles of far greater weight. The authorities quoted by Colonel Yule mention an engine employed by the Venetians at the siege of Zara that shot stones into the city of 3,000 lbs. weight. The French experiments proved that these engines could be directed with surprising accuracy.59

An immense amount of timber was sometimes required for the construction of one engine in the Middle Ages. One used at the final capture of Acre was loaded in a hundred carts. Richard Coeur de Lion had one that filled an entire ship. St. Louis captured 24 on the Nile, the timber of which sufficed to stockade his entire camp. The number of engines was still more enormous in some well appointed mediaeval armies, for the siege of Acre it is said that 92, by some that 300 engines were set in battery.60


The Author's Notes:

35 We have lived to hear of a discussion on the re-introduction of chariots into modern warfare. The use of cars to carry riflemen rapidly from one point to another during action was in this year, 1873, under discussion amongst military authorities at the United Service Institution.

36 Judges, xx.16.

37 Ecclesiastes, ix.14.

38 Fol. Paris, 1693.

39 Poliorcétique des Grecs, par C. Weschler. 8vo. Paris, 1869.

40 "Nearly the machine afterwards introduced by Avery, one of which of six horse-power is or was at work near Edinborough": Smith's Greek and Roman Biography, &c.

41 Notae in Vitruv. lib., X.15.

42 Vegetius, IV.9, speaks of women's hair as a resource when rope could not be made out of other materials. There seems, however, a concurrence of opinion among both Greek and Latin engineers in favour of this material as the best that could be used, being close, strong, and elastic.

43 Ammian. Marcellin. XXIII. "Quod asini feri cum venatoribus agitantur ita eminus lapides post terga calcitrando emittunt ut perforent pectora sequentium aut perfractis ossibus capita ipsa displodant."

44 "Quoniam aculeum desuper habet erectum."

45 Poliorcetique des Grecs.

46 "Pulvileo." Vitruvius. xc.

47 "Muro saxeo hujusmodi moles imposita disjectat quicquid invenerit subter, concussione violente non pondere." Amm. Marcellin., XXIII.

48 Philander, note to Vitruvius, X.

49 "Per singulas centurias singulas carrobalistas, item decem onagros hoc est singuli per singulas cohortes in carpentis bobus portantibus." Veget. IV.25.

50 Veget. ib.

51 Bell. Civil. II.10.

52 Jul. Caesar, Life, by the Emperor Napoleon, plate 32.

53 "Ut sub each milites terram solidarent munirentque viam turribus ambulatoriis dum muros accederent unde nomen ei factum a marinis musculis qui balaenis praenatant et vada demonstrant." — Facciolati.

54 Lib. IV.

55 Vegetius, IV.15.

56 Nor are these mechanical forces so entirely out of date that we may not witness some re-introductions of them in modern warfare. Sir William Palliser has assured me that for the projection of torpedoes some agent less rapid and sudden than gunpowder is absolutely needed, that they may be discharged against a ship's side without too great risk to the vessel or fortification that uses this means of attack or defence. Thus, along with the use of chariots in battle, naval armour, and heavy beaks at the bows of ships of war for ramming, the gradual revolution of time seems to be restoring to us for certain purposes what many would think the clumsiest of substitutes for our scientific modern artillery. At the same time, it is, I believe, the judgment of some authorities on modern artillery that great weights projected at low velocities are more serviceable by racking and detaching armour plates than shot that can pierce them; but these opinions only have reference to different classes of guns, not to any comparison between the real power of gunpowder and other propelling agencies. "Notwithstanding the great improvements in modern machinery, it may safely be affirmed that by no application of the property of elasticity in metallic, wooden, or other springs could a convenient machine have been formed to propel a 32 lb. shot at a velocity of 1,600 feet a second, although it is highly probable that one might have been constructed to propel very large masses at a low velocity, or to produce great momenta, as was indeed the case with some of the projectile machines of the ancients." — Art. on Artillery, Encyclop. Britannica.

57 Le passé et l'avenir de l'artillerie," Vol. II.

58a Froissart, cxcvi.

58b Col. Yule, 124.

59 At the siege of Thun l'Evêque in 1340, six great engines were brought from Cambray and Douay. Their vertical discharges broke in the roofs of houses and towers, driving the inhabitants and defenders to the cellars for safety.

At the siege of Mortagne Saintonge in 1405, an engineer constructed a machine on the walls to keep down the discharges of one powerful piece in the besieging lines. At the third shot he succeeded in breaking the beam or shaft of the besieging engine. — Froissart, I.cxx, &c. &c.

60 See Col. Yule, ii.120.


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