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Architecture >> Vitruvius Book 10
The Ten Books on Architecture
1. In the famous and important Greek city of Ephesus there is said to
be an ancient ancestral law, the terms of which are severe, but its justice
is not inequitable. When an architect accepts the charge of a public work,
he has to promise what the cost of it will be. His estimate is handed to
the magistrate, and his property is pledged as security until the work
is done. When it is finished, if the outlay agrees with his statement,
he is complimented by decrees and marks of honor. If no more than a fourth
has to be added to his estimate, it is furnished by the treasury and no
penalty is inflicted. But when more than one fourth has to be spent in
addition on the work, the money required to finish it is taken from his
2. Would to God that this were also a law of the Roman people, not merely
for public, but also for private buildings. For the ignorant would no longer
run riot with impunity, but men who are well qualified by an exact scientific
training would unquestionably adopt the profession of architecture. Gentlemen
would not be misled into limitless and prodigal expenditure, even to ejectments
from their estates, and the architects themselves could be forced, by fear
of the penalty, to be more careful in calculating and stating the limit
of expense, so that gentlemen would procure their buildings for that which
they had expected, or by adding only a little more. It is true that men
who can afford to devote four hundred thousand to a work may hold on, if
they have to add another hundred thousand, from the pleasure which the
hope of finishing it gives them; but if they are loaded with a fifty per
cent increase, or with an even greater expense, they lose hope, sacrifice
what they have already spent, and are compelled to leave off, broken in
fortune and in spirit.
3. This fault appears not only in the matter of buildings, but also
in the shows given by magistrates, whether of gladiators in the forum or
of plays on the stage. Here neither delay nor postponement is permissible,
but the necessities of the case require that everything should be ready
at a fixed time, the seats for the audience, the awning drawn over them,
and whatever, in accordance with the customs of the stage, is provided
by machinery to please the eye of the people. These matters require careful
thought and planning by a well trained intellect; for none of them can
be accomplished without machinery, and without hard study skillfully applied
in various ways.
4. Therefore, since such are our traditions and established practices,
it is obviously fitting that the plans should be worked out carefully,
and with the greatest attention, before the structures are begun. Consequently,
as we have no law or customary practice to compel this, and as every year
both praetors and aediles have to provide machinery for the festivals,
I have thought it not out of place, Emperor, since I have treated of buildings
in the earlier books, to set forth and teach in this, which forms the final
conclusion of my treatise, the principles which govern machines.
Machines and Implements
1. A machine is a combination of timbers fastened together, chiefly
efficacious in moving great weights. Such a machine is set in motion on
scientific principles in circular rounds. There is, however, a class intended
for climbing, another worked by air and a third for hoisting. In the climbing
class are machines so disposed that one can safely climb up high, by means
of timbers set up on end and connected by crossbeams, in order to view
operations. In the pneumatic class, air is forced by pressure to produce
sounds and tones.
2. In the hoisting class, heavy weights are removed by machines which
raise them up and set them in position. The climbing machine displays no
scientific principle, but merely a spirit of daring. It is held together
by dowels and crossbeams and twisted lashings and supporting props. A machine
that gets its motive power by pneumatic pressure will produce pretty effects
by scientific refinements. But the hoisting machine has opportunities for
usefulness which are greater and full of grandeur, and it is of the highest
efficacy when used with intelligence.
3. The difference between "machines" and "engines" is obviously this,
that machines need more workmen and greater power to make them take effect,
as for instance ballistae and the beams of presses. Engines, on the other
hand, accomplish their purpose at the intelligent touch of a single workman,
as the scorpio or anisocycli when they are turned. Therefore engines, as
well as machines, are, in principle, practical necessities, without which
nothing can be unattended with difficulties.
4. All machinery is derived from nature, and is founded on the teaching
and instruction of the revolution of the firmament. Let us but consider
the connected revolutions of the sun, the moon, and the five planets, without
the revolution of which, due to mechanism, we should not have had the alternation
of day and night, nor the ripening of fruits. Thus, when our ancestors
had seen that this was so, they took their models from nature, and by imitating
them were led on by divine facts, until they perfected the contrivances
which are so serviceable in our life. Some things, with a view to greater
convenience, they worked out by means of machines and their revolutions,
others by means of engines, and so, whatever they found to be useful for
investigations, for the arts, and for established practices, they took
care to improve step by step on scientific principles.
5. Let us take first a necessary invention, such as clothing, and see
how the combination of warp and woof on the loom, which does its work on
the principle of an engine, not only protects the body by covering it,
but also gives it honorable apparel. We should not have had food in abundance
unless yokes and ploughs for oxen, and for all draught animals, had been
invented. If there had been no provision of windlasses, press beams, and
levers for presses, we could not have had the shining oil, nor the fruit
of the vine to give us pleasure, and these things could not be transported
on land without the invention of the mechanism of carts or wagons, nor
on the sea without that of ships.
6. The discovery of the method of testing weights by steelyards and
balances saves us from fraud, by introducing honest practices into life.
There are also innumerable ways of employing machinery about which it seems
unnecessary to speak, since they are at hand every day; such as mills,
blacksmiths' bellows, carriages, gigs, turning lathes, and other things
which are habitually used as general conveniences. Hence, we shall begin
by explaining those that rarely come to hand, so that they may be understood.
1. First we shall treat of those machines which are of necessity made
ready when temples and public buildings are to be constructed. Two timbers
are provided, strong enough for the weight of the load. They are fastened
together at the upper end by a bolt, then spread apart at the bottom, and
so set up, being kept upright by ropes attached at the upper ends and fixed
at intervals all round. At the top is fastened a block, which some call
a "rechamus." In the block two sheaves are enclosed, turning on axles.
The traction rope is carried over the sheave at the top, then let fall
and passed round a sheave in a block below. Then it is brought back to
a sheave at the bottom of the upper block, and so it goes down to the lower
block, where it is fastened through a hole in that block. The other end
of the rope is brought back and down between the legs of the machine.
2. Socket pieces are nailed to the hinder faces of the squared timbers
at the point where they are spread apart, and the ends of the windlass
are inserted into them so that the axles may turn freely. Close to each
end of the windlass are two holes, so adjusted that handspikes can be fitted
into them. To the bottom of the lower block are fastened shears made of
iron, whose prongs are brought to bear upon the stones, which have holes
bored in them. When one end of the rope is fastened to the windlass, and
the latter is turned round by working the handspikes, the rope winds round
the windlass, gets taut, and thus it raises the load to the proper height
and to its place in the work.
3. This kind of machinery, revolving with three sheaves, is called a
trispast. When there are two sheaves turning in the block beneath and three
in the upper, the machine is termed a pentaspast. But if we have to furnish
machines for heavier loads, we must use timbers of greater length and thickness,
providing them with correspondingly large bolts at the top, and windlasses
turning at the bottom. When these are ready, let forestays be attached
and left lying slack in front; let the backstays be carried over the shoulders
of the machine to some distance, and, if there is nothing to which they
can be fastened, sloping piles should be driven, the ground rammed down
all round to fix them firmly, and the ropes made fast to them.
4. A block should then be attached by a stout cord to the top of the
machine, and from that point a rope should be carried to a pile, and to
a block tied to the pile. Let the rope be put in round the sheave of this
block, and brought back to the block that is fastened at the top of the
machine. Round its sheave the rope should be passed, and then should go
down from the top, and back to the windlass, which is at the bottom of
the machine, and there be fastened. The windlass is now to be turned by
means of the handspikes, and it will raise the machine of itself without
danger. Thus, a machine of the larger kind will be set in position, with
its ropes in their places about it, and its stays attached to the piles.
Its blocks and traction ropes are arranged as described above.
5. But if the loads of material for the work are still more colossal
in size and weight, we shall not entrust them to a windlass, but set in
an axle tree, held by sockets as the windlass was, and carrying on its
center a large drum, which some term a wheel.
6. And the blocks in such machines are not arranged in the same, but
in a different manner; for the rows of sheaves in them are doubled, both
at the bottom and at the top. The traction rope is passed through a hole
in the lower block, in such a way that the two ends of the rope are of
equal length when it is stretched out, and both portions are held there
at the lower block by a cord which is passed round them and lashed so that
they cannot come out either to the right or the left. Then the ends of
the rope are brought up into the block at the top from the outside, and
passed down over its lower sheaves, and so return to the bottom, and are
passed from the inside to the sheaves in the lowest block, and then are
brought up on the right and left, and return to the top and round the highest
set of sheaves.
7. Passing over these from the outside, they are then carried to the
right and left of the drum on the axle tree, and are tied there so as to
stay fast. Then another rope is wound round the drum and carried to a capstan,
and when that is turned, it turns the drum and the axle tree, the ropes
get taut as they wind round regularly, and thus they raise the loads smoothly
and with no danger. But if a larger drum is placed either in the middle
or at one side, without any capstan, men can tread in it and accomplish
the work more expeditiously.
8. There is also another kind of machine, ingenious enough and easy
to use with speed, but only experts can work with it. It consists of a
single timber, which is set up and held in place by stays on four sides.
Two cheeks are nailed on below the stays, a block is fastened by ropes
above the cheeks, and a straight piece of wood about two feet long, six
digits wide, and four digits thick, is put under the block. The blocks
used have each three rows of sheaves side by side. Hence three traction
ropes are fastened at the top of the machine. Then they are brought to
the block at the bottom, and passed from the inside round the sheaves that
are nearest the top of it. Then they are brought back to the upper block,
and passed inwards from outside round the sheaves nearest the bottom.
9. On coming down to the block at the bottom, they are carried round
its second row of sheaves from the inside to the outside, and brought back
to the second row at the top, passing round it and returning to the bottom;
then from the bottom they are carried to the summit, where they pass round
the highest row of sheaves, and then return to the bottom of the machine.
At the foot of the machine a third block is attached. This block fastened
at the foot of the machine has three sheaves in it, round which the ropes
are passed and then delivered to men to pull. Thus, three rows of men,
pulling without a capstan, can quickly raise the load to the top.
10. This kind of machine is called a polyspast, because of the many
revolving sheaves to which its dexterity and dispatch are due. There is
also this advantage in the erection of only a single timber, that by previously
inclining it to the right or left as much as one wishes, the load can be
set down at one side.
All these kinds of machinery described above are, in their principles,
suited not only to the purposes mentioned, but also to the loading and
unloading of ships, some kinds being set upright, and others placed horizontally
on revolving platforms. On the same principle, ships can be hauled ashore
by means of arrangements of ropes and blocks used on the ground, without
setting up timbers.
11. It may also not be out of place to explain the ingenious procedure
of Chersiphron. Desiring to convey the shafts for the temple of Diana at
Ephesus from the stone quarries, and not trusting to carts, lest their
wheels should be engulfed on account of the great weights of the load and
the softness of the roads in the plain, he tried the following plan. Using
four inch timbers, he joined two of them, each as long as the shaft, with
two crosspieces set between them, dovetailing all together, and then leaded
iron gudgeons shaped like dovetails into the ends of the shafts, as dowels
are leaded, and in the woodwork he fixed rings to contain the pivots, and
fastened wooden cheeks to the ends. The pivots, being enclosed in the rings,
turned freely. So, when yokes of oxen began to draw the four inch frame,
they made the shaft revolve constantly, turning it by means of the pivots
12. When they had thus transported all the shafts, and it became necessary
to transport the architraves, Chersiphron's son Metagenes extended the
same principle from the transportation of the shafts to the bringing down
of the architraves. He made wheels, each about twelve feet in diameter,
and enclosed the ends of the architraves in the wheels. In the ends he
fixed pivots and rings in the same way. So when the four inch frames were
drawn by oxen, the wheels turned on the pivots enclosed in the rings, and
the architraves, which were enclosed like axles in the wheels, soon reached
the building, in the same way as the shafts. The rollers used for smoothing
the walks in palaestrae will serve as an example of this method. But it
could not have been employed unless the distance had been short; for it
is not more than eight miles from the stone quarries to the temple, and
there is no hill, but an uninterrupted plain.
13. In our own times, however, when the pedestal of the colossal Apollo
in his temple had cracked with age, they were afraid that the statue would
fall and be broken, and so they contracted for the cutting of a pedestal
from the same quarries. The contract was taken by one Paconius. This pedestal
was twelve feet long, eight feet wide, and six feet high. Paconius, with
confident pride, did not transport it by the method of Metagenes, but determined
to make a machine of a different sort, though on the same principle.
14. He made wheels of about fifteen feet in diameter, and in these wheels
he enclosed the ends of the stone; then he fastened two-inch crossbars
from wheel to wheel round the stone, encompassing it, so that there was
an interval of not more than one foot between bar and bar. Then he coiled
a rope round the bars, yoked up his oxen, and began to draw on the rope.
Consequently as it uncoiled, it did indeed cause the wheels to turn, but
it could not draw them in a line straight along the road, but kept swerving
out to one side. Hence it was necessary to draw the machine back again.
Thus, by this drawing to and fro, Paconius got into such financial embarrassment
that he became insolvent.
15. I will digress a bit and explain how these stone quarries were discovered.
Pixodorus was a shepherd who lived in that vicinity. When the people of
Ephesus were planning to build the temple of Diana in marble, and debating
whether to get the marble from Paros, Proconnesus, Heraclea, or Thasos,
Pixodorus drove out his sheep and was feeding his flock in that very spot.
Then two rams ran at each other, and, each passing the other, one of them,
after his charge, struck his horns against a rock, from which a fragment
of extremely white color was dislodged. So it is said that Pixodorus left
his sheep in the mountains and ran down to Ephesus carrying the fragment,
since that very thing was the question of the moment. Therefore they immediately
decreed honors to him and changed his name, so that instead of Pixodorus
he should be called Evangelus. And to this day the chief magistrate goes
out to that very spot every month and offers sacrifice to him, and if he
does not, he is punished.
The Elements of Motion
1. I have briefly set forth what I thought necessary about the principles
of hoisting machines. In them two different things, unlike each other,
work together, as elements of their motion and power, to produce these
effects. One of them is the right line, the other is the circle; but in
point of fact, neither rectilinear without circular motion, nor revolutions,
without rectilinear motion, can accomplish the raising of loads. I will
explain this, so that it may be understood.
2. As centers, axles are inserted into the sheaves, and these are fastened
in the blocks; a rope carried over the sheaves, drawn straight down, and
fastened to a windlass, causes the load to move upward from its place as
the handspikes are turned. The pivots of this windlass, lying as centers
in right lines in its socket pieces, and the handspikes inserted in its
holes, make the load rise when the ends of the windlass revolve in a circle
like a lathe. Just so, when an iron lever is applied to a weight which
a great many hands cannot move, with the fulcrum lying as a center in a
right line under the lever, and with the tongue of the lever placed under
the weight, one man's strength, bearing down upon the head of it, heaves
up the weight.
3. For, as the shorter fore part of the lever goes under the weight
from the fulcrum that forms the center, the head of it, which is farther
away from that center, on being depressed, is made to describe a circular
movement, and thus by pressure brings to an equilibrium the weight of a
very great load by means of a few hands. Again, if the tongue of an iron
lever is placed under a weight, and its head is not pushed down, but, on
the contrary, is heaved up, the tongue, supported on the surface of the
ground, will treat that as the weight, and the edge of the weight itself
as the fulcrum. Thus, not so easily as by pushing down, but by motion in
the opposite direction, the weight of the load will nevertheless be raised.
If, therefore, the tongue of a lever lying on a fulcrum goes too far under
the weight, and its head exerts its pressure too near the center, it will
not be able to elevate the weight, nor can it do so unless, as described
above, the length of the lever is brought to equilibrium by the depression
of its head.
4. This may be seen from the balances that we call steelyards. When
the handle is set as a center close to the end from which the scale hangs,
and the counterpoise is moved along towards the other arm of the beam,
shifting from point to point as it goes farther or even reaches the extremity,
a small and inferior weight becomes equal to a very heavy object that is
being weighed, on account of the equilibrium that is due to the leveling
of the beam. Thus, as it withdraws from the center, a small and comparatively
light counterpoise, slowly turning the scale, makes a greater amount of
weight rise gently upwards from below.
5. So, too, the pilot of the biggest merchant man, grasping the steering
oar by its handle and with one hand bringing it to the turning point, according
to the rules of his art, by pressure about a center, can turn the ship,
although she may be laden with a very large or even enormous burden of
merchandise and provisions. And when her sails are set only halfway up
the mast, a ship cannot run quickly; but when the yard is hoisted to the
top, she makes much quicker progress, because then the sails get the wind,
not when they are too close to the heel of the mast, which represents the
center, but when they have moved farther away from it to the top.
6. As a lever thrust under a weight is harder to manage, and does not
put forth its strength, if the pressure is exerted at the center, but easily
raises the weight when the extreme end of it is pushed down, so sails that
are only halfway up have less effect, but when they get farther away from
the center, and are hoisted to the very top of the mast, the pressure at
the top forces the ship to make greater progress, though the wind is no
stronger but just the same. Again, take the case of oars, which are fastened
to the holes by loops, when they are pushed forward and drawn back by the
hand, if the ends of the blades are at some distance from the center, the
oars foam with the waves of the sea and drive the ship forward in a straight
line with a mighty impulse, while her prow cuts through the rare water.
7. And when the heaviest burdens are carried on poles by four or six
porters at a time, they find the centers of balance at the very middle
of the poles, so that, by distributing the dead weight of the burden according
to a definitely proportioned division, each laborer may have an equal share
to carry on his neck. For the poles, from which the straps for the burden
of the four porters hang, are marked off at their centers by nails, to
prevent the straps from slipping to one side. If they shift beyond the
mark at the center, they weigh heavily upon the place to which they have
come nearer, like the weight of a steelyard when it moves from the point
of equilibrium towards the end of the weighing apparatus.
8. In the same way, oxen have an equal draught when their yoke is adjusted
at its middle by the yoke strap to the pole. But when their strength is
not the same, and the stronger outdoes the other, the strap is shifted
so as to make one side of the yoke longer, which helps the weaker ox. Thus,
in the case of both poles and yokes, when the straps are not fastened at
the middle, but at one side, the farther the strap moves from the middle,
the shorter it makes one side, and the longer the other. So, if both ends
are carried round in circles, using as a center the point to which the
strap has been brought, the longer end will describe a larger, and the
shorter end a smaller circle.
9. Just as smaller wheels move harder and with greater difficulty than
larger ones, so, in the case of the poles and yokes, the parts where the
interval from center to end is less, bear down hard upon the neck, but
where the distance from the same center is greater, they ease the burden
both for draught and carriage. As in all these cases motion is obtained
by means of right lines at the center and by circles, so also farm wagons,
traveling carriages, drums, mills, screws, scorpions, ballistae, press
beams, and all other machines, produce the results intended, on the same
principles, by turning about a rectilinear axis and by the revolution of
Engines for Raising Water
1. I shall now explain the making of the different kinds of engines
which have been invented for raising water, and will first speak of the
tympanum. Although it does not lift the water high, it raises a great quantity
very quickly. An axle is fashioned on a lathe or with the compasses, its
ends are shod with iron hoops, and it carries round its middle a tympanum
made of boards joined together. It rests on posts which have pieces of
iron on them under the ends of the axle. In the interior of this tympanum
there are eight crosspieces set at intervals, extending from the axle to
the circumference of the tympanum, and dividing the space in the tympanum
into equal compartments.
2. Planks are nailed round the face of it, leaving six-inch apertures
to admit the water. At one side of it there are also holes, like those
of a dovecot, next to the axle, one for each compartment. After being smeared
with pitch like a ship, the thing is turned by the tread of men, and raising
the water by means of the apertures in the face of the tympanum, delivers
it through the holes next to the axle into a wooden trough set underneath,
with a conduit joined to it. Thus, a large quantity of water is furnished
for irrigation in gardens, or for supplying the needs of salt works.
3. But when it has to be raised higher, the same principle will be modified
as follows. A wheel on an axle is to be made, large enough to reach the
necessary height. All round the circumference of the wheel there will be
cubical boxes, made tight with pitch and wax. So, when the wheel is turned
by treading, the boxes, carried up full and again returning to the bottom,
will of themselves discharge into the reservoir what they have carried
4. But, if it has to be supplied to a place still more high, a double
iron chain, which will reach the surface when let down, is passed round
the axle of the same wheel, with bronze buckets attached to it, each holding
about six pints. The turning of the wheel, winding the chain round the
axle, will carry the buckets to the top, and as they pass above the axle
they must tip over and deliver into the reservoir what they have carried
Water Wheels and Water Mills
1. Wheels on the principles that have been described above are also
constructed in rivers. Round their faces floorboards are fixed, which,
on being struck by the current of the river, make the wheel turn as they
move, and thus, by raising the water in the boxes and bringing it to the
top, they accomplish the necessary work through being turned by the mere
impulse of the river, without any treading on the part of workmen.
2. Water mills are turned on the same principle. Everything is the same
in them, except that a drum with teeth is fixed into one end of the axle.
It is set vertically on its edge, and turns in the same plane with the
wheel. Next to this larger drum there is a smaller one, also with teeth,
but set horizontally, and this is attached (to the millstone). Thus the
teeth of the drum which is fixed to the axle make the teeth of the horizontal
drum move, and cause the mill to turn. A hopper, hanging over this contrivance,
supplies the mill with corn, and meal is produced by the same revolution.
Here for The
The Pump of Ctesibius
1. Next I must tell about the machine of Ctesibius, which raises water
to a height. It is made of bronze, and has at the bottom a pair of cylinders
set a little way apart, and there is a pipe connected with each, the two
running up, like the prongs of a fork, side by side to a vessel which is
between the cylinders. In this vessel are valves, accurately fitting over
the upper vents of the pipes, which stop up the menthols, and keep what
has been forced by pressure into the vessel from going down again.
2. Over the vessel a cowl is adjusted, like an inverted funnel, and
fastened to the vessel by means of a wedge thrust through a staple, to
prevent it from being lifted off by the pressure of the water that is forced
in. On top of this a pipe is jointed, called the trumpet, which stands
up vertically. Valves are inserted in the cylinders, beneath the lower
vents of the pipes, and over the openings which are in the bottoms of the
3. Pistons smoothly turned, rubbed with oil, and inserted from above
into the cylinders, work with their rods and levers upon the air and water
in the cylinders, and, as the valves stop up the openings, force and drive
the water, by repeated pressure and expansion, through the vents of the
pipes into the vessel, from which the cowl receives the inflated currents,
and sends them up through the pipe at the top; and so water can be supplied
for a fountain from a reservoir at a lower level.
4. This, however, is not the only apparatus which Ctesibius is said
to have thought out, but many more of various kinds are shown by him to
produce effects, borrowed from nature, by means of water pressure and compression
of the air; as, for example, blackbirds singing by means of waterworks,
and "angobatae," and figures that drink and move, and other things that
are found to be pleasing to the eye and the ear.
5. Of these I have selected what I considered most useful and necessary,
and have thought it best to speak in the preceding book about timepieces,
and in this about the methods of raising water. The rest, which are not
subservient to our needs, but to pleasure and amusement, may be found in
the commentaries of Ctesibius himself by any who are interested in such
The Water Organ
1. With regard to water organs, however, I shall not fail with all possible
brevity and precision to touch upon their principles, and to give a sufficient
description of them. A wooden base is constructed, and on it is set an
altar shaped box made of bronze. Uprights, fastened together like ladders,
are set up on the base, to the right and to the left (of the altar). They
hold the bronze pump cylinders, the moveable bottoms of which, carefully
turned on a lathe, have iron elbows fastened to their centers and jointed
to levers, and are wrapped in fleeces of wool. In the tops of the cylinders
are openings, each about three digits in diameter. Close to these openings
are bronze dolphins, mounted on joints and holding chains in their mouths,
from which hang cymbal shaped valves, let down under the openings in the
2. Inside the altar, which holds the water, is a regulator shaped like
an inverted funnel, under which there are cubes, each about three digits
high, keeping a free space below between the lips of the regulator and
the bottom of the altar. Tightly fixed on the neck of the regulator is
the windchest, which supports the principal part of the contrivance. Running
longitudinally, there are four channels in it if it is a tetrachord; six,
if it is a hexachord; eight, if it is an octachord.
3. Each of the channels has a cock in it, furnished with an iron handle.
These handles, when turned, open menthols from the windchest into the channels.
From the channels to the canon there are vertical openings corresponding
to menthols in a board above. Between this board and the canon are inserted
sliders, pierced with holes to correspond, and rubbed with oil so that
they can be easily moved and slid back into place again. They close the
above mentioned openings, and are called the plinths. Their going and coming
now closes and now opens the holes.
4. These sliders have iron jacks fixed to them, and connected with the
keys, and the keys, when touched, make the sliders move regularly. To the
upper surface of the openings in the board, where the wind finds egress
from the channels, rings are soldered, and into them the reeds of all the
organ pipes are inserted. From the cylinders there are connecting pipes
attached to the neck of the regulator, and directed towards the menthols
in the windchest. In the pipes are valves, turned on a lathe, and set (where
the pipes are connected with the cylinders). When the windchest has received
the air, these valves will stop up the openings, and prevent the wind from
coming back again.
5. So, when the levers are raised, the elbows draw down the bottoms
of the cylinders as far as they can go; and the dolphins, which are mounted
on joints, let the cymbals fall into the cylinders, thus filling the interiors
with air. Then the elbows, raising the bottoms within the cylinders by
repeated and violent blows, and stopping the openings above by means of
the cymbals, compress the air which is enclosed in the cylinders, and force
it into the pipes, through which it runs into the regulator, and through
its neck into the windchest. With a stronger motion of the levers, the
air is still more compressed, streams through the apertures of the cocks,
and fills the channels with wind.
6. So, when the keys, touched by the hand, drive the sliders forward
and draw them back regularly, alternately stopping and opening the holes,
they produce resonant sounds in a great variety of melodies conforming
to the laws of music.
With my best efforts I have striven to set forth an obscure subject
clearly in writing, but the theory of it is not easy, nor readily understood
by all, save only those who have had some practice in things of this kind.
If anybody has failed to understand it, he will certainly find, when he
comes to know the thing itself, that it is carefully and exquisitely contrived
in all respects.
1. The drift of our treatise now turns to a useful invention of the
greatest ingenuity, transmitted by our predecessors, which enables us,
while sitting in a carriage on the road or sailing by sea, to know how
many miles of a journey we have accomplished. This will be possible as
follows. Let the wheels of the carriage be each four feet in diameter,
so that if a wheel has a mark made upon it, and begins to move forward
from that mark in making its revolution on the surface of the road, it
will have covered the definite distance of twelve and a half feet on reaching
that mark at which it began to revolve.
2. Having provided such wheels, let a drum with a single tooth projecting
beyond the face of its circumference be firmly fastened to the inner side
of the hub of the wheel. Then, above this, let a case be firmly fastened
to the body of the carriage, containing a revolving drum set on edge and
mounted on an axle; on the face of the drum there are four hundred teeth,
placed at equal intervals, and engaging the tooth of the drum below. The
upper drum has, moreover, one tooth fixed to its side and standing out
farther than the other teeth.
3. Then, above, let there be a horizontal drum, similarly toothed and
contained in another case, with its teeth engaging the tooth fixed to the
side of the second drum, and let as many holes be made in this (third)
drum as will correspond to the number of miles more or less, it does not
matter that a carriage can go in a day's journey. Let a small round stone
be placed in every one of these holes, and in the receptacle or case containing
that drum let one hole be made, with a small pipe attached, through which,
when they reach that point, the stones placed in the drum may fall one
by one into a bronze vessel set underneath in the body, of the carriage.
4. Thus, as the wheel in going forward carries with it the lowest drum,
and as the tooth of this at every revolution strikes against the teeth
of the upper drum, and makes it move along, the result will be that the
upper drum is carried round once for every four hundred revolutions of
the lowest, and that the tooth fixed to its side pushes forward one tooth
of the horizontal drum. Since, therefore, with four hundred revolutions
of the lowest drum, the upper will revolve once, the progress made will
be a distance of five thousand feet or one mile. Hence, every stone, making
a ringing sound as it falls, will give warning that we have gone one mile.
The number of stones gathered from beneath and counted, will show the number
of miles in the day's journey.
5. On board ship, also, the same principles may be employed with a few
changes. An axle is passed through the sides of the ship, with its ends
projecting, and wheels are mounted on them, four feet in diameter, with
projecting floorboards fastened round their faces and striking the water.
The middle of the axle in the middle of the ship carries a drum with one
tooth projecting beyond its circumference. Here a case is placed containing
a drum with four hundred teeth at regular intervals, engaging the tooth
of the drum that is mounted on the axle, and having also one other tooth
fixed to its side and projecting beyond its circumference.
6. Above, in another case fastened to the former, is a horizontal drum
toothed in the same way, and with its teeth engaging the tooth fixed to
the side of the drum that is set on edge, so that one of the teeth of the
horizontal drum is struck at each revolution of that tooth, and the horizontal
drum is thus made to revolve in a circle. Let holes be made in the horizontal
drum, in which holes small round stones are to be placed. In the receptacle
or case containing that drum, let one hole be opened with a small pipe
attached, through which a stone, as soon as the obstruction is removed,
falls with a ringing sound into a bronze vessel.
7. So, when a ship is making headway, whether under oars or under a
gale of wind, the floorboards on the wheels will strike against the water
and be driven violently back, thus turning the wheels; and they, revolving,
will move the axle, and the axle the drum, the tooth of which, as it goes
round, strikes one of the teeth of the second drum at each revolution,
and makes it turn a little. So, when the floorboards have caused the wheels
to revolve four hundred times, this drum, having turned round once, will
strike a tooth of the horizontal drum with the tooth that is fixed to its
side. Hence, every time the turning of the horizontal drum brings a stone
to a hole, it will let the stone out through the pipe. Thus by the sound
and the number, the length of the voyage will be shown in miles.
I have described how to make things that may be provided for use and
amusement in times that are peaceful and without fear.
Catapults or Scorpions
1. I shall next explain the symmetrical principles on which scorpions
may be constructed, inventions devised for defense against danger, and
in the interest of self-preservation.
The proportions of these engines are all computed from the given length
of the arrow which the engine is intended to throw, and the size of the
holes in the capitals, through which the twisted sinews that hold the arms
are stretched, is one ninth of that length.
2. The height and breadth of the capital itself must then conform to
the size of the holes. The boards at the top and bottom of the capital,
which are called "peritreti," should be in thickness equal to one hole,
and in breadth to one and three quarters, except at their extremities,
where they equal one hole and a half. The side posts on the right and left
should be four holes high, excluding the tenons, and five twelfths of a
hole thick; the tenons, half a hole. The distance from a side post to the
hole is one quarter of a hole, and it is also one quarter of a hole from
the hole to the post in the middle. The breadth of the post in the middle
is equal to one hole and one eighth, the thickness, to one hole.
3. The opening in the middle post, where the arrow is laid, is equal
to one fourth of the hole. The four surrounding corners should have iron
plates nailed to their sides and faces, or should be studded with bronze
pins and nails. The pipe has a length of nineteen holes. The strips, which
some term cheeks, nailed at the right and left of the pipe, have a length
of nineteen holes and a height and thickness of one hole. Two other strips,
enclosing the windlass, are nailed on to these, three holes long and half
a hole in breadth. The cheek nailed on to them, named the "bench," or by
some the "box," and made fast by means of dove-tailed tenons, is one hole
thick and seven twelfths of a hole in height. The length of the windlass
is equal to 12 holes, the thickness of the windlass to three quarters
of a hole.
4. The latch is seven twelfths of a hole in length and one quarter in
thickness. So also its socket piece. The trigger or handle is three holes
in length and three quarters of a hole in breadth and thickness. The trough
in the pipe is sixteen holes in length, one quarter of a hole in thickness,
and three quarters in height. The base of the standard on the ground is
equal to eight holes; the breadth of the standard where it is fastened
into the plinth is three quarters of a hole, its thickness two thirds of
a hole; the height of the standard up to the tennon is twelve holes, its
breadth three quarters of a hole, and its thickness two thirds. It has
three struts, each nine holes in length, half a hole in breadth, and five
twelfths in thickness. The tendon is one hole in length, and the head of
the standard one hole and a half in length.
5. The antefix has the breadth of a hole and one eighth, and the thickness
of one hole. The smaller support, which is behind, is eight holes long,
three quarters of a hole broad, and two thirds thick. Its prop is twelve
holes long, and has the same breadth and thickness as the smaller support
just mentioned. Above the smaller support is its socket piece, or what
is called the cushion, two and a half holes long, one and a half high,
and three quarters of a hole broad. The windlass cup is two and seven twelfths
holes long, two thirds of a hole thick, and three quarters broad. The crosspieces
with their tenons have the length of... holes, the breadth of three quarters,
and the thickness of two thirds of a hole. The length of an arm is seven
holes, its thickness at its base two thirds of a hole, and at its end one
half a hole; its curvature is equal to two thirds of a hole.
6. These engines are constructed according to these proportions or with
additions or diminutions. For, if the height of the capitals is greater
than their width when they are called "high-tensioned,"something should
be taken from the arms, so that the more the tension is weakened by height
of the capitals, the more the strength of the blow is increased by shortness
of the arms. But if the capital is less high, when the term "low tensioned"
is used, the arms, on account of their strength, should be made a little
longer, so that they may be drawn easily. Just as it takes four men to
raise a load with a lever five feet long, and only two men to lift the
same load with a ten foot lever, so the longer the arms, the easier they
are to draw, and the shorter, the harder.
I have now spoken of the principles applicable to the parts and proportions
Ballistae are constructed on varying principles to produce an identical
result. Some are worked by handspikes and windlasses, some by blocks and
pulleys, others by capstans, others again by means of drums. No ballista,
however, is made without regard to the given amount of weight of the stone
which the engine is intended to throw. Hence their principle is not easy
for everybody, but only for those who have knowledge of the geometrical
principles employed in calculation and in multiplication.
2. For the holes made in the capitals through the openings of which
are stretched the strings made of twisted hair, generally women's, or of
sinew, are proportionate to the amount of weight in the stone which the
ballista is intended to throw, and to the principle of mass, as in catapults
the principle is that of the length of the arrow. Therefore, in order that
those who do not understand geometry may be prepared beforehand, so as
not to be delayed by having to think the matter out at a moment of peril
in war, I will set forth what I myself know by experience can be depended
upon, and what I have in part gathered from the rules of my teachers, and
wherever Greek weights bear a relation to the measures, I shall reduce
and explain them so that they will express the same corresponding relation
in our weights.
3. A ballista
intended to throw a two pound stone will have a hole of five digits in
its capital; four pounds, six digits; and six pounds, seven digits; ten
pounds, eight digits; twenty pounds, ten digits; forty pounds, twelve and
a half digits; sixty pounds, thirteen and a half digits; eighty pounds,
fifteen and three quarters digits; one hundred pounds, one foot and one
and a half digits; one hundred and twenty pounds, one foot and two digits;
one hundred and forty pounds, one foot and three digits; one hundred and
sixty pounds, one foot and a quarter; one hundred and eighty pounds, one
foot and five digits; two hundred pounds, one foot and six digits; two
hundred and forty pounds, one foot and seven digits; two hundred and eighty
pounds, one foot and a half; three hundred and twenty pounds, one foot
and nine digits; three hundred and sixty pounds, one foot and ten digits.
4. Having determined the size of the hole, design the "scutula" is eight
holes in length and two and one sixth in breadth. Bisect it by a line drawn
diagonally from the angles, and after this bisecting bring together the
outlines of the figure so that it may present a rhomboidal design, reducing
it by one sixth of its length and one fourth of its breadth at the (obtuse)
angles. In the part composed by the curvatures into which the points of
the angles run out, let the holes be situated, and let the breadth be reduced
by one sixth; moreover, let the hole be longer than it is broad by the
thickness of the bolt. After designing the scutula, let its outline be
worked down to give it a gentle curvature.
5. It should be given the thickness of seven twelfths of a hole. The
boxes are two holes (in height), one and three quarters in breadth, two
thirds of a hole in thickness except the part that is inserted in the hole,
and at the top one third of a hole in breadth. The side posts are five
holes and two thirds in length, their curvature half a hole, and their
thickness thirty-seven forty-eighths of a hole. In the middle their breadth
is increased as much as it was near the hole in the design, by the breadth
and thickness of... hole; the height by one fourth of a hole.
6. The (inner) strip on the "table" has a length of eight holes, a breadth
and thickness of half a hole. Its tenons are one hole and one sixth long,
and one quarter of a hole in thickness. The curvature of this strip is
three quarters of a hole. The outer strip has the same breadth and thickness
(as the inner), but the length is given by the obtuse angle of the design
and the breadth of the side post at its curvature. The upper strips are
to be equal to the lower; the crosspieces of the "table," one half of a
7. The shafts of the "ladder" are thirteen holes in length, one hole
in thickness; the space between them is one hole and a quarter in breadth,
and one and one eighth in depth. Let the entire length of the ladder on
its upper surface which is the one adjoining the arms and fastened to the
table be divided into five parts. Of these let two parts be given to the
member, its breadth being one and one sixth, its thickness one quarter,
and its length eleven holes and one half; the claw projects half a hole
and the "winging" three sixteenths of a hole. What is at the axis which
is termed the... face... the crosspieces of three holes.
8. The breadth of the inner slips is one quarter of a hole; their thickness
one sixth. The cover joint or lid of the chelonium is dove-tailed into
the shafts of the ladder, and is three sixteenths of a hole in breadth
and one twelfth in thickness. The thickness of the square piece on the
ladder is three sixteenths of a hole,... the diameter of the round axle
will be equal to that of the claw, but at the pivots seven sixteenths of
9. The stays are... holes in length, one quarter of a hole in breadth
at the bottom, and one sixth in thickness at the top. The base has
the length of 12 holes, and the anti-base of four holes; each is one hole
in thickness and breadth. A supporter is jointed on, halfway up, one and
one half holes in breadth and thickness. Its height bears no relation to
the hole, but will be such as to be serviceable. The length of an arm is
six holes, its thickness at the base two thirds of a hole, and at the end
one half a hole.
I have now given those symmetrical proportions of ballistae and catapults
which I thought most useful. But I shall not omit, so far as I can express
it in writing, the method of stretching and tuning their strings of twisted
sinew or hair.
The Stringing and Tuning of Catapults
1. Beams of very generous length are selected, and upon them are nailed
socket pieces in which windlasses are inserted. Midway along their length
the beams are incised and cut away to form framings, and in these cuttings
the capitals of the catapults are inserted, and prevented by wedges from
moving when the stretching is going on. Then the bronze boxes are inserted
into the capitals, and the little iron bolts are put in their places in
2. Next, the loops of the strings are put through the holes in the capitals,
and passed through to the other side; next, they are put upon the windlasses,
and wound round them in order that the strings, stretched out taut on them
by means of the handspikes, on being struck by the hand, may respond with
the same sound on both sides. Then they are wedged tightly into the holes
so that they cannot slacken. So, in the same manner, they are passed through
to the other side, and stretched taut on the windlasses by means of the
handspikes until they give the same sound. Thus with tight wedging, catapults
are tuned to the proper pitch by musical sense of hearing.
On these things I have said what I could. There is left for me, in the
matter of sieges, to explain how generals can win victories and cities
be defended, by means of machinery.
1. It is related that the battering ram for sieges was originally invented
as follows. The Carthaginians pitched their camp for the siege of Cadiz.
They captured an outwork and attempted to destroy it. But having no iron
implements for its destruction, they took a beam, and, raising it with
their hands, and driving the end of it repeatedly against the top of the
wall, they threw down the top courses of stones, and thus, step by step
in regular order, they demolished the entire redoubt.
2. Afterwards a carpenter from Tyre, Bright by name and by nature, was
led by this invention into setting up a mast from which he hung another
crosswise like a steelyard, and so, by swinging it vigorously to and fro,
he threw down the wall of Cadiz. Geras of Chalcedon was the first to make
a wooden platform with wheels under it, upon which he constructed a framework
of uprights and crosspieces, and within it he hung the ram, and covered
it with oxhide for the better protection of the men who were stationed
in the machine to batter the wall. As the machine made but slow progress,
he first gave it the name of the tortoise of the ram.
3. These were the first steps then taken towards that kind of machinery,
but afterwards, when Philip, the son of Amyntas, was besieging Byzantium,
it was developed in many varieties and made handier by Polyidus the Thessalian.
His pupils were Diades and Charias, who served with Alexander. Diades shows
in his writings that he invented moveable towers, which he used also to
take apart and carry round with the army, and likewise the borer, and the
scaling machine, by means of which one can cross over to the wall on a
level with the top of it, as well as the destroyer called the raven, or
by others the crane.
4. He also employed the ram mounted on wheels, an account of which he
left in his writings. As for the tower, he says that the smallest should
be not less than sixty cubits in height and seventeen in breadth, but diminishing
to one fifth less at the top; the uprights for the tower being nine inches
at the bottom and half a foot at the top. Such a tower, he says, ought
to be ten stories high, with windows in it on all sides.
5. His larger tower, he adds, was one hundred and twenty cubits high
and twenty-three and one half cubits broad, diminishing like the other
to one fifth less; the uprights, one foot at the bottom and six digits
at the top. He made this large tower twenty stories high, each story having
a gallery round it, three cubits wide. He covered the towers with rawhide
to protect them from any kind of missile.
6. The tortoise of the battering ram was constructed in the same way.
It had, however, a base of thirty cubits square, and a height, excluding
the pediment, of thirteen cubits; the height of the pediment from its bed
to its top was seven cubits. Issuing up and above the middle of the roof
for not less than two cubits was a gable, and on this was reared a small
tower four stories high, in which, on the top floor, scorpions and catapults
were set up, and on the lower floors a great quantity of water was stored,
to put out any fire that might be thrown on the tortoise. Inside of this
was set the machinery of the ram, in which was placed a roller, turned
on a lathe, and the ram, being set on top of this, produced its great effects
when swung to and fro by means of ropes. It was protected, like the tower,
7. He explained the principles of the borer as follows: that the machine
itself resembled the tortoise, but that in the middle it had a pipe lying
between upright walls, like the pipe usually found in catapults and ballistae,
fifty cubits in length and one cubit in height, in which a windlass was
set transversely. On the right and left, at the end of the pipe, were two
blocks, by means of which the iron pointed beam, which lay in the pipe,
was moved. There were numerous rollers enclosed in the pipe itself under
the beam, which made its movements quicker and stronger. Numerous arches
were erected along the pipe above the beam which was in it, to hold up
the rawhide in which this machine was enveloped.
8. He thought it needless to write about the raven, because he saw that
the machine was of no value. With regard to the scaling machine and the
naval contrivances which, as he wrote, could be used in boarding ships,
I have observed that he merely promised with some earnestness to explain
their principles, but that he has not done so.
I have set forth what was written by Diades on machines and their construction.
I shall now set forth the methods which I have learned from my teachers,
and which I myself believe to be useful.
1. A tortoise intended for the filling of ditches, and thereby to make
it possible to reach the wall, is to be made as follows. Let a base be
constructed, with each of its sides twenty-one feet long, and with four
crosspieces. Let these be held together by two others, two thirds of a
foot thick and half a foot broad; let the crosspieces be about three feet
and a half apart, and beneath and in the spaces between them set the trees,
in which the axles of the wheels turn in iron hoops. Let the trees be provided
with pivots, and also with holes through which levers are passed to make
them turn, so that the tortoise can move forward or back or towards its
right or left side, or if necessary obliquely, all by the turning of the
2. Let two beams be laid on the base, projecting for six feet on each
side, round the projections of which let two other beams be nailed, projecting
seven feet beyond the former, and of the thickness and breadth prescribed
in the case of the base. On this framework set up posts mortised into it,
nine feet high exclusive of their tenons, one foot and a quarter square,
and one foot and a half apart. Let the posts be tied together at the top
by mortised beams. Over the beams let the rafters be set, tied one into
another by means of tenons, and carried up twelve feet high. Over the rafters
set the square beam by which the rafters are bound together.
3. Let the rafters themselves be held together by bridging, and covered
with boards, preferably of holm oak, or, this failing, of any other material
which has the greatest strength, except pine or alder. For these woods
are weak and easily catch fire. Over the boardings let there be placed
wattles very closely woven of thin twigs as fresh as possible. Let the
entire machine be covered with rawhide sewed together double and stuffed
with seaweed or straw soaked in vinegar. In this way the blows of ballistae
and the force of fires will be repelled by them.
1. There is also another kind of tortoise, which has all the other details
as described above except the rafters, but it has round it a parapet and
battlements of boards, and eaves sloping downwards, and is covered with
boards and hides firmly fastened in place. Above this let clay kneaded
with hair be spread to such a thickness that fire cannot injure the machine.
These machines can, if need be, have eight wheels, should it be necessary
to modify them with reference to the nature of the ground. Tortoises, however,
which are intended for excavating, have all the other details as described
above, but their fronts are constructed like the angles of triangles, in
order that when missiles are shot against them from a wall, they may receive
the blows not squarely in front, but glancing from the sides, and those
excavating within may be protected without danger.
2. It does not seem to me out of place to set forth the principles on
which Hegetor of Byzantium constructed a tortoise. The length of its base
was sixty-three feet, the breadth forty-two. The corner posts, four in
number, which were set upon this framework, were made of two timbers each,
and were thirty-six feet high, a foot and a quarter thick, and a foot and
a half broad. The base had eight wheels by means of which it was moved
about. The height of these wheels was six and three quarters feet, their
thickness three feet. Thus constructed of three pieces of wood, united
by alternate opposite dovetails and bound together by cold drawn iron plates,
they revolved in the trees or amaxopodes.
3. Likewise, on the plane of the crossbeams above the base, were erected
posts eighteen feet high, three quarters of a foot broad, two thirds of
a foot thick, and a foot and three quarters apart; above these, framed
beams, a foot broad and three quarters of a foot thick, held the whole
structure together; above this the rafters were raised, with an elevation
of twelve feet; a beam set above the rafters united their joinings. They
also had bridging fastened transversely, and a flooring laid on them protected
the parts beneath.
4. It had, moreover, a middle flooring on girts, where scorpions and
catapults were placed. There were set up, also, two framed uprights forty-five
feet long, a foot and a half in thickness, and three quarters of a foot
in breadth, joined at the tops by a mortised crossbeam and by another,
halfway up, mortised into the two shafts and tied in place by iron plates.
Above this was set, between the shafts and the crossbeams, a block pierced
on either side by sockets, and firmly fastened in place with clamps. In
this block were two axles, turned on a lathe, and ropes fastened from them
held the ram.
5. Over the head of these (ropes) which held the ram, was placed a parapet
fitted out like a small tower, so that, without danger, two soldiers, standing
in safety, could look out and report what the enemy were attempting. The
entire ram had a length of one hundred and eighty feet, a breadth at the
base of a foot and a quarter, and a thickness of a foot, tapering at the
head to a breadth of a foot and a thickness of three quarters of a foot.
6. This ram, moreover, had a beak of hard iron such as ships of war
usually have, and from the beak iron plates, four in number, about fifteen
feet long, were fastened to the wood. From the head to the very heel of
the beam were stretched cables, three in number and eight digits thick,
fastened just as in a ship from stem to stern continuously, and these cables
were bound with cross girdles a foot and a quarter apart. Over these the
whole ram was wrapped with rawhide. The ends of the ropes from which the
ram hung were made of fourfold chains of iron, and these chains were themselves
wrapped in rawhide.
7. Likewise, the projecting end of the ram had a box framed and constructed
of boards, in which was stretched a net made of rather large ropes, over
the rough surfaces of which one easily reached the wall without the feet
slipping. And this machine moved in six directions, forward (and backward),
also to the right or left, and likewise it was elevated by extending it
upwards and depressed by inclining it downwards. The machine could be elevated
to a height sufficient to throw down a wall of about one hundred feet,
and likewise in its thrust it covered a space from right to left of not
less than one hundred feet. One hundred men controlled it, though it had
a weight of four thousand talents, which is four hundred and eighty thousand
Measures of Defense
1. With regard to scorpions, catapults, and ballistae, likewise
with regard to tortoises and towers, I have set forth, as seemed to me
especially appropriate, both by whom they were invented and in what manner
they should be constructed. But I have not considered it as necessary to
describe ladders, cranes, and other things, the principles of which are
simpler, for the soldiers usually construct these by themselves, nor can
these very machines be useful in all places nor in the same way, since
fortifications differ from each other, and so also the bravery of nations.
For siege works against bold and venturesome men should be constructed
on one plan, on another against cautious men, and on still another against
2. And so, if any one pays attention to these directions, and by selection
adapts their various principles to a single structure, he will not be in
need of further aids, but will be able, without hesitation, to design such
machines as the circumstances or the situations demand. With regard to
works of defense, it is not necessary to write, since the enemy do not
construct their defenses in conformity with our books, but their contrivances
are frequently foiled, on the spur of the moment, by some shrewd, hastily
conceived plan, without the aid of machines, as is said to have been the
experience of the Rhodians.
3. For Diognetus was a Rhodian architect, to whom, as an honor, was
granted out of the public treasury a fixed annual payment commensurate
with the dignity of his art. At this time an architect from Aradus, Callias
by name, coming to Rhodes, gave a public lecture, and showed a model of
a wall, over which he set a machine on a revolving crane with which he
seized an helepolis as it approached the fortifications, and brought it
inside the wall. The Rhodians, when they had seen this model, filled with
admiration, took from Diognetus the yearly grant and transferred this honor
4. Meanwhile, king Demetrius, who because of his stubborn courage was
called Poliorcetes, making war on Rhodes, brought with him a famous Athenian
architect named Epimachus. He constructed at enormous expense, with the
utmost care and exertion, an helepolis one hundred and thirty-five feet
high and sixty feet broad. He strengthened it with hair and rawhide so
that it could withstand the blow of a stone weighing three hundred and
sixty pounds shot from a ballista; the machine itself weighed three hundred
and sixty thousand pounds. When Callias was asked by the Rhodians to construct
a machine to resist this helepolis, and to bring it within the wall as
he had promised, he said that it was impossible.
5. For not all things are practicable on identical principles, but there
are some things which, when enlarged in imitation of small models, are
effective, others cannot have models, but are constructed independently
of them, while there are some which appear feasible in models, but when
they have begun to increase in size are impracticable, as we can observe
in the following instance. A half inch, inch, or inch and a half hole is
bored with an auger, but if we should wish, in the same manner, to bore
a hole a quarter of a foot in breadth, it is impracticable, while one of
half a foot or more seems not even conceivable.
6. So too, in some models it is seen how they appear practicable on
the smallest scale and likewise on a larger. And so the Rhodians, in the
same manner, deceived by the same reasoning, inflicted injury and insult
on Diognetus. Therefore, when they saw the enemy stubbornly hostile, slavery
threatening them because of the machine which had been built to take the
city, and that they must look forward to the destruction of their state,
they fell at the feet of Diognetus, begging him to come to the aid of the
fatherland. He at first refused.
7. But after free-born maidens and young men came with the priests to
implore him, he promised to do it on condition that if he took the machine
it should be his property. When these terms had been agreed upon, he pierced
the wall in the place where the machine was going to approach it, and ordered
all to bring forth from both public and private sources all the water,
excrement, and filth, and to pour it in front of the wall through pipes
projecting through this opening. After a great amount of water, filth,
and excrement had been poured out during the night, on the next day the
helepolis moving up, before it could reach the wall, came to a stop in
the swamp made by the moisture, and could not be moved forwards, nor later
even backwards. And so Demetrius, when he saw that he had been baffled
by the wisdom of Diognetus, withdrew with his fleet.
8. Then the Rhodians, freed from the war by the cunning of Diognetus,
thanked him publicly, and decorated him with all honors and distinctions.
Diognetus brought that helepolis into the city, set it up in a public place,
and put on it an inscription: "Diognetus out of the spoils of the enemy
dedicated this gift to the people." Therefore, in works of defense, not
merely machines, but, most of all, wise plans must be prepared.
9. Likewise at Chios, when the enemy had prepared storming bridges on
their ships, the Chians, by night, carried out earth, sand, and stones
into the sea before their walls. So, when the enemy, on the next day, tried
to approach the walls, their ships grounded on the mound beneath the water,
and could not approach the wall nor withdraw, but pierced with fire-darts
were burned there. Again, when Apollonia was being besieged, and the enemy
were thinking, by digging mines, to make their way within the walls without
exciting suspicion, and this was reported by scouts to the people of Apollonia,
they were much disturbed and alarmed by the news, and having no plans for
defense, they lost courage, because they could not learn either the time
or the definite place where the enemy would come out.
10. But at this time Trypho, the Alexandrine architect, was there. He
planned a number of countermines inside the wall, and extending them outside
the wall beyond the range of arrows, hung up in all of them brazen vessels.
The brazen vessels hanging in one of these mines, which was in front of
a mine of the enemy, began to ring from the strokes of their iron tools.
So from this it was ascertained where the enemy, pushing their mines, thought
to enter. The line being thus found out, he prepared kettles of hot water,
pitch, human excrement, and sand heated to a glow. Then, at night, he pierced
a number of holes, and pouring the mixture suddenly through them, killed
all the enemy who were engaged in this work.
11. In the same manner, when Marseilles was being besieged, and they
were pushing forward more than thirty mines, the people of Marseilles,
distrusting the entire moat in front of their wall, lowered it by digging
it deeper. Thus all the mines found their outlet in the moat. In places
where the moat could not be dug they constructed, within the walls, a basin
of enormous length and breadth, like a fish pond, in front of the place
where the mines were being pushed, and filled it from wells and from the
port. And so, when the passages of the mine were suddenly opened, the immense
mass of water let in undermined the supports, and all who were within were
overpowered by the mass of water and the caving in of the mine.
12. Again, when a rampart was being prepared against the wall in front
of them, and the place was heaped up with felled trees and works placed
there, by shooting at it with the ballistae red-hot iron bolts they set
the whole work on fire. And when a ram-tortoise had approached to batter
down the wall, they let down a noose, and when they had caught the ram
with it, winding it over a drum by turning a capstan, having raised the
head of the ram, they did not allow the wall to be touched, and finally
they destroyed the entire machine by glowing fire-darts and the blows of
ballistae. Thus by such victory, not by machines but in opposition to the
principle of machines, has the freedom of states been preserved by the
cunning of architects.
Such principles of machines as I could make clear, and as I thought
most serviceable for times of peace and of war, I have explained in this
book. In the nine earlier books I have dealt with single topics and details,
so that the entire work contains all the branches of architecture, set
forth in ten books.
How To Build Catapults >> Vitruvius
Ten Books of Architecture >> Book 10