Illustrator: Brian Delf
machinery first appeared in the West during the Carthaginian invasion of Sicily in the late-5th century BC, in the form of siege towers and battering rams.
a 50-year hiatus these weapons of war re-appeared in the Macedonian armies of Philip II and Alexander the Great, a period that saw the height of their development in the Ancient World.
experience of warfare with both the Carthaginians during the later-3rd century BC, and Philip V of Macedon during the early-2nd century BC, finally prompted the introduction of the siege tower and the battering ram to the Roman arsenal.
This title traces the development and use of these weapons across the whole of this period.
- Wheeled Towers (the siege-tower, the Helepolis of Epimachus, the Helepolis of Posidonius)
- Tortoises (the 'ditch-filling' tortoise, the 'digging' tortoise, the ram-tortoise, Hegetor's ram-tortoise)
- Ancillary machines (the 'sambuca', the 'tolleno')
- Roman Siege Machinery (the siege-tower, the ram-tortoise, miscellaneous shelters)
- Colour plate commentary
Although Diodorus, Athenaeus and Plutarch are obviously describing the same machine, Vitruvius’s text, taken at face value, specifies an altogether smaller tower. He also diverges from the other sources in claiming that the machine was fouled in a puddle of sewage which the defenders contrived to pour in its path; apparently, the tower was so heavy that the wheels simply sank in the morass.
Is it possible that Vitruvius mistakenly described a different helepolis? Certainly, Demetrius is known to have utilised similar machines at Argos in 295 BC and Thebes in 291 BC. Vitruvius’s story strikes an interesting chord with Plutarch, who records that the helepolis at Thebes was so ponderous that, after two months, the men had managed to drive it forward by only two stades (355m). Was the slow progress caused by Theban sewage?