Author Archives: luxcaelum

Mini replica of a Thirteenth Century Hinged-counterweight Trebuchet

Timeline and Brief History of “Sling-base Throwing Machines”

This is a photograph of a work of art from the 12th century which shows a traction trebuchet. You can see the men pulling down on ropes to give flight to the projectile (Peter of Eboli).

China introduced us to the first sling based throwing machines in the 4th and  5th centuries (Chevedden, Eigenbrod, Foley, and Soedel, l). They were powered by men pulling on ropes that were connected to the end of a swinging arm. Later in the 7th century these man powered machines, manganikon, were developed in the Byzantine Empire. The Arabic empires then adapted the machines calling them manjaniq and were the most accurate and reliable. The Frankish Empire also used these first sling based throwing machines, finding a balance between reliability, accuracy, and cost (Nossov, 163-164).

This is an image of a traction trebuchet contained in a manuscript depicting a Byzantine siege of a citadel. The image is from the 11th century and the author is unknown. It is interesting to note the archer who would attempt to defend the pullers ("Unknown").



In the 8th century, a hybrid counterweight-man powered stone thrower was born, offering more power and accuracy. It easily hurled a 50 kilogram projectile through the air. Innovation of the stone thrower throughout four centuries produced a new throwing machine that used the force of gravity rather than pulling on ropes and by late 12th century the European trebuchet was developed (Nossov 171).

The Concept and Design of Hinged Counterweight Trebuchets.

The development of a trebuchet was an evolutionary process consisting of many engineering innovations throughout centuries of observation and design. Constructing a trebuchet consisted of a “supporting framework with vertical posts joined by an axle.” A beam is un-proportionately positioned through an axle. At the longer end of the beam a sling made of leather or netting was fixed with rope to the beam and then doubled-backed and attached to a metal pin or hook. On the shorter end ropes in the case of a traction trebuchet or an immense counterweight was attached to deliver the necessary conversion from force to mechanical energy (Nossov, 171).

One of two vertical supports that will be attached to a base and joined together by and axle.

The two vertical supports (framework) of the trebuchet. The beam is also shown here which will have the axle go through it.

The two vertical post are connected to a base to complete the framework for the trebuchet. The hole for the axle has been drilled in the posts but not in the beam. The counterweight box, sling and channel still need to be completed.

Medieval engineers in the 13th century found that counterweights that were hinged could throw projectiles farther as, they were able to harness more energy than their other counterweight counterparts (Nossov, 174). Additionally the hinge proved to be a great braking system for the trebuchet allowing it to nearly completely stop as the beam rotates to an upright vertical position. The breaking system induced by the hinged counterweight decreased the amount of strain inflicted on the structural framework and cushioned the violent reaction that would cause the trebuchet to go off target upon the next firing (Chevedden, Eigenbrod, Foley, and Soedel, 3). As a result “The much gentler release of the trebuchet meant that engineers did not have to reposition the frame between shots and so could shoot more rapidly and accurately” (Chevedden, Eigenbrod, Foley, and Soedel , 3). Other advantages were that hinged or moveable counterweight trebuchets were easier to “transfer and assemble” (Nossov, 174).

Sling pouch made of leather cut into a diamond like shape. Two triangle pieces of the leather were cut out and stitched together to create a pocket rather than a flap. Grommets were attached to each end of the leather and tied to the rope to complete the sling.

Don't make and glue pieces for the wrong side! Just completed the hinge supports for the counterweight box. Opps...they were for the wrong side. Luckily the glue hadn't dried.

Completed the counterweight box and hinge. The axle will be put through the short end of the beam. This will allow for more energy to be transferred to the sling and ultimately the projectile.

In order to load the trebuchet the long end of the beam was pulled down to the ground by a series of ropes, windlass, and or squirrel’s wheels. A large trebuchet was cocked by 10 to 12 men who could lift a 10-ton counterweight in approximately 6 minutes. When the long end of the beam was lowered into position the trigger was fixed and the sling was prepared (Nossov, 177). The sling entered a special channel which directed the sling and various projectiles: stone or lead balls, pots of flammable substances, cobble-stone grenades, burning sand/tar, darts, diseased corpses, or beehives were loaded inside the sling (“Trebuchets”).

 A shot was fired in the following way…the operator released the trigger mechanism and the counterweight sped downwards, propelled by the force of gravity. The longer end of the beam soared upwards respectively. The sling would tear itself off the chute in which it lay, outstripping the lifting of the beam, and would lash around the end of the beam, adding acceleration to the projectile. Depending on the construction of the sling, its end either slid off the cog on the beam or was pulled by a tie; the sling would unfold and release the projectile (Nossov, 174).

Trigger construction and application was diverse. Triggers found in ancient drawings of trebuchets do not always reflect the method of firing a trebuchet. Due to the proximity of the trigger in conjunction with the beam, it has been suggested that the soldier who’s duty to pull the trigger may have been just as dangerous as the soldier on the frontline. A common trigger was a rope-over beam method. The rope then needed to be expelled by a mallet, pin or snap (“Trebuchet Triggers”).

Melted lead into six bricks that weight approx. 1.5 pounds each.

Completed lead bricks to act as counterweight for the trebuchet. Don't touch they are still hot!

Attaching the channel which will guide the sling and keep the projectile on target. Also, in the background you can see my first attempt at the beam. The holes for the axle were not drilled straight.

When laying siege to a wall or castle stone or lead balls of the same caliber (weight and size) were used. This allowed consistent and accurate shots. The complete trebuchet mechanical system is truly a dynamic one. The velocity, distance, and trajectory are not only dependant on the ratio of projectile weight to counterweight but also the sling length, cog length and angles, and beam length and angles and counterweight motion.  Firing a projectile in a short sling versus a long sling resulted in a steeper or grazing trajectory respectively. However these trajectories were also determined by the size and weight of the projectiles and counterweight (Nossov, 177).

Locked and loaded. Bird-eye view of the completed trebuchet. The trigger is a metal rod connected to a pullrope. The box is loaded to the brim with lead bricks. The ropes and pulleys are connected to the framework and beam to lower the beam after it has been fired. The only thing which wasn't done on this trebuchet was the construction of a windlass.

Impacts of the Trebuchet….

The trebuchet expanded and impacted Islamic, Mongol and European conquest. It was a weapon which held both offensive and defensive operations and was an instrument which helped propelled the “Black Death” epidemic across ancient Europe – as diseased corpses were hurled into cities (Chevedden, Eigenbrod, Foley, and Soedel, 2).Further it seems to have had an impact on theories of motion and the development of clocks and pendelums.

“During their heyday, trebuchets received much attention from engineers indeed; the very word ‘engineering’ is intimately related to them. In Latin and the European venaculars, a common term for trebuchet was ‘engine’ (from ingenium, ‘an ingenious contrivance’), and those who designed, made and used them were called ingeniators” (Chevedden, Eigenbrod, Foley, and Soedel, 3).

The trebuchet was a multifaceted feat that furthered science, engineering, technology, as well as politics and war. It impacted four civilizations of which “its fullest development [was achieved] in Western Europe” (Chevedden, 71-72).  Today it’s role helps students understand not only historical achievements but also physical principles that were discovered centuries ago. It has been well enjoyed by historians, layman, hobbyists and enthusiasts. As for myself, I have enjoyed learning what made the trebuchet a “Great Idea of the West.”

Side view of the completed trebuchet. Not bad considering It started with just a pile of sticks and some random hardware.

 Works Cited

Chevedden, Paul E. “The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion.” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 54 (2000): pp. 71-116. JSTOR. Web. Apr 1. 2011. <;.

Chevedden, Paul E. Eigenbrod, Les. Foley, Vernard. And Soedel, Werner. “The Trebuchet.” Scientific American Spec. Online Issue. Scientific American, Inc. Feb. 2002. Web. 1. Apr. 2012.

Peter of Eboli. Cesky: Obránci hradu. 12th century. <>. Web. 18 Apr. 2012

Nossov, Konstantin. Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Siege Weapons and Tactics.Guilford: TheLyons Press-The Globe Pequot press, 2005.

“Trebuchet.” The Middle Ages Website. Sep. 20, 2006. n.p. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. <>.

“Trebuchet Triggers.” Greg Company Trebuchet. Russell Miners, Nov. 2000. Web. 1 Apr. 2012. <>.

“Unknown”, Image from an illuminated manuscript depicting a Byzantine siege of a citadel.  11th century. <>. Web. 18 Apr. 2012.

1 Comment

Filed under Final Projects -- Cohort II

The Demise of the Templar Knights

The Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon (also known as Knights of the Order of the Temple or Templar Knights) established in 1118 were monastic knights who practiced and vowed celibacy, humility, and poverty in the name of their Lord. They held high standards, but also they were knights who took up the sword to defend the truth and help protect and expand their Christian disciples (William of Trye). Clairvaux records:

They are seen [to be] both more gentle than lambs, and more ferocious than lions, that I almost doubt what I should prefer them to be called, namely monks or knights, unless I should call them in fact most suitably by both [names], in whom neither is known to be lacking, neither the gentleness of the monk nor the strength of the knight (qtd. in Menache, 3).

The first knights held their white mantles high, protecting weary, Christian pilgrams. Achieving endorsement by the Catholic Church around 1129 A.D. the order grew in power defending with prowess in the crusades for the church. The order established and maintained commanderies in every state in Europe, including France which inclueded 42 strongholds. One such example was Castle Pilgrim which offered cavalry/barraks  as well as chapels to the knights ( Moeller). The Order later answered only to the church and was ratified from obeying any laws except for the Pope’s. Soon the Templars amassed large amounts of monetary support and estates,  achieving “innovating financial techniques that were an early form of banking” (Wikipedia).

Templars being burned at the stake. Illustration From the Creation of the World until 1384. Out of Copyright in the United States.

As the Arabic world unified under Saladin, the Templars noble order, after time degraded and entropy set in. Its noble deeds and chivalric esteem was lost or rather abandoned. William of Trye observed with a critical eye,

in the same year, certain noble men of knightly rank, religious men, devoted to God and fearing him, bound themselves to Christ’s service in the hands of Lord Patriarch. They promised to live in perpetuity as regular canons, without possessions, under vows of chastity and obedience…Although the kings now had been established for nine years, there were still only nine of them. From this time onward their number began to grow and their possession began to multiply…It is said today that their wealth is equal to the treasures of kings…Although they maintained their establishment honorably for a long time and fulfilled their vocation with sufficient prudence, later,  because of the neglect of humility (which is known as the guardian of all virtues and which, since it sits in the lowest place, cannot fall), they with drew from the Patriarch of Jerusalem, by whom their order was founded and from whom they received their first benefices and to whom they denied the obedience which their predecessors renders. They have also taken away tithes and first fruits from God’s churches, have disturbed their possessions, and have made themselves exceedingly troublesome.

This troublesomeness was an array of sinful and treacherous deeds against the Catholic Church and secular associations including the crown. These deeds included: Greed, bribery of the enemy and betrayal of the Crusade, drinking, profanity, sexual sins (including sodomy), disavowing Christ, the Virgin Mary, and the Saints, and having graven images (Menache).

The abolition of the Templar Knights by Pope Clemet V occurred around 1312 A.D. Menache suggests, society of the time disdained their deeds, but perhaps even more so because of their monastic vows. Although the Templars were not held in high esteem by noble or common folk, King Philip IV may have had more than moral or religious reasons for disbanding the Order. King Philip focused on religious propaganda rather than the treachery against the crown to persuade society in favor of the king and against the order. Philip wanted control over the financial assets which grew within the order from its infancy. Ramifications against the order included both Spiritual and temporal penalties (12-13). Another reason might include that the order was protected and controlled by the Church.

Despite the unfavorable opinion held by the public, the members of the order in France could only be convicted by confession. The French King cunningly employed torture as a means to indict them (some in-front of the Pope) (Moeller). Ultimately, the Pope divided its assets into the Order of Hospitallers and many of the  innocent Templar knights were taken in by that order.

Works Cited

Bibliothèque Municipale, Besançon, France. Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY. de:Benutzer:Lysis Eingescannt aus: Louis Crompton, Homosexuality & Civilization. Cambridge, Mass.; London 2003. S. 196. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

“Knights Templar.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundations. Apr. 2 2011. Web. Apr 5 2012.

Menache, Sophia. “The Templar Order: A Failed Ideal?.” The Catholic Historical Review, Vol 79, No. 1 (Jan. 1993). pp. 1-21. via <;. JSTOR. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

Moeller, Charles. “The Knights Templars.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 7 Apr. 2012 <;. Web. 5 Apr. 2012.

William of Tyre, Historia rerum in partibus transmarinis gestarum, XII, 7, Patrologia Latina 201, 526-27, Trans. Brundage, James.  The Crusades: A Documentary History, (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1962), 70-73. Web. Accessed 5 Apr. 2012. from Medival Sourcebook: The foundation of the Order of Knights Templar via <>.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Vehicles on Trajan’s Column

Pairs of mules drag carroballistae, cart-mounted missile throwing weapons, into battle

Scene 40, Carroballistae. Used with permission. Copywrite Peter Rockwell. Via

Trajan’s column gives a glimpse of life at war and war technology during Trajan’s campaign against the Dacians.  One particular insight on the column shows the use of wagons and siege equipment specifically a carroballistae. This type of ballista was mounted to a cart with two eight spoke wheels and drawn by mules or horses. This is an assumed technological advancement allowing for mobile artillery. Richmond suggests that it is “much like a hopper-trailer of a modern field gun (13). The wagon was serviced by two soldiers. One soldier seems to be loading and the other preparing the torrsion propulsion system.

The ballista was mounted on a cart were one man took position on the back to aim and fire the bolt while another solider likely wound the winch to create the needed tension for firing. Disputes amoung scholars has suggested the carts were only used to transport the ballistaes during the campaign; however, depictions on the column show the ballistaes loaded. This would have been a very dangerous way to transport them. Also, there is evidence that ballistaes mounted on carts or charriots have been seen on other forms of archeology (Wikipedia).

Scene 40, Soldiers above ballistae. Used with permission. Copywrite Peter Rockwell. Via

The viewer must keep in mind that Trajan’s Column is monument to a victorious campaign on a monochrome stone medium. It was carved by a scuplter rather than a soldier. The portrayal of the soldiers are too simplistic to be a rendition of actual soldiers in battle. Evidence of this can be seen in the uniforms as well as in the incorrect representations of the ballista.  The depictions are meant to be decisively recognized as roman. (Richmond, 14).




Works Cited 

“Carroballista.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundations. Mar. 6 2011. Web. Mar 8 2012. 

Richmond, I. A. “Trajan’s Army on Trajan’s Column.: Papers  of the British School at Rome. Vol. 13 (1935), pp. 1-40. JSTOR Web. Feb 28 2012.

Rockwell, Peter. Soldiers above ballistae. Trajan’s Column. Photograph. The McMaster Trajan Project.  1999. 8 Mar. 2012. Web.

Rockwell, Peter. Carroballistae. Trajan’s Column. Photograph. The McMaster Trajan Project.  1999. 8 Mar. 2012. Web.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Legionary Life on Commemorating a Soldier

Tombstones laid for deceased soldiers were methods of displaying personal success and individual identity especially within the legion. The tombstones were often erected and executed by their comrades in arms. As most who received them either had purchased their burial rites before their death or were given to them by fellow soldiers (Hope, 87). A Roman soldier could pay into a burial fund while he was in the service. Likewise, a soldier could commemorate his life by having one constructed for him by his heir as a tribute to a life of service for Rome(Matyszak, 192-193).  These acts of recognition were dually a private affair and received for those servicemen who died off the battlefield. Hope asserts:

Rome and its empire were littered with reminders of battles, but it needs to be emphasized that theses ‘war memorials’ celebrated conquest, victory, and power, rather than death, grief, and individuality. In general, communal expressions of military loss, sacrifice, and mourning were not a feature of the Roman landscape.

On the battlefield death was to be dealt with as opportunity dictated. Burial was a matter of convince and practicality. Corpses on the field were unsightly as well as unhealthy. Most fallen soldiers were cremated and some given shallow graves. Precautions were taken by the surviving troops to limit desecrations to the graves but ultimately practicality gave way. Few corpses were transported home and permissions were only given for the elite. One reason being the large numbers of dead soldiers would deter future enrollment. Any mention of the soldier was likely praiseworthy, as funeral processions were to celebrate the glory and honor of Rome (Hope,87-88).

Hopes research helps us construct a society different than our own. But like she suggests we must be critical of our assertions and assumptions reasons being: incomplete evidence, different contexts with in the empire, and personal points of view. 

Tribute to Rome was ultimately paid to her conquering generals and emperors.  Monuments and structures such as Trajan’s Column were built to honor a successful campaign. The epitome of the emperors boasting was a triumph. A triumph as listed by Matyszak was parading of jovial generals and soldiers in which the roman civilians celebrated the success of the emperor and the army was congratulated by the people and by the emperor himself. After the parading the soldiers participate in rituals and later would spend a week partying. Hope states, “A triumph was a celebration of and for the living rather than the dead” (82). On both the scales of mega and micro, tribute was paid for success.

Scene 54. Trajan rewarding his troops. Used with permission. Copyright Peter Rockwell. Via

Contrasting the triumph as we learn from Livy, a Roman soldier’s death on the battlefield was to remain hushed, silent, and private (22.55).  As Hope puts it, “Trophies and triumphs were about forgetting the dead rather than remembering them” (84). The life of a slain soldier was likely meant to be forgotten and the people to move on. Death of a soldier on the battlefield was in no way a public affair.  Rather it was and isolated moment in which the family of the soldier could find solace. Not to say that death on the battlefield received no public attention for it did, but its recognition was fostered in a private and silent way.

Works Cited

Hope, Valerie M. “Trophies and Tombstones: Commemorating the Roman Soldier.” World Archaeology, Vol. 35, No. 1, The Social Commemoration of Warfare (Jun 2003), pp. 79-97  JSTOR  Web. Feb. 28 2012. 

Livy, Titus. “Livy’s History of Rome: Book 22 The Disaster of Cannae.” The History of Rome, Vol. III  Web. 18 Feb. 2012.

Matyszak, Philip. Legionary The Roman Soldier’s (Unofficial) Manual.London: Thames andHudson. 2009. Print.

Rockwell, Peter. Trajan rewarding his troops. Trajan’s Column. Photograph. The McMaster Trajan Project.  1999. 28 Feb. 2012. Web.


Filed under Uncategorized

Hannibal’s Roman prisoners

I couldn’t get this video to embed correctly. This is a video created by the History Channel on the Battle of Cannae. There were also some enjoyable YouTube videos of Cannae as well; however, I could not figure out how to give due dilligence.

August 2 of 215 BC, on the field of Cannae 50,000 Romans lay dead. Eight-thousand prisoners have been captured and the victorious Hannibal following the customs of war had made preparations to capitalize on the situation. Modern scholars and historians Livy and Polybius alike speculate Hannibal was in need of provisions in particular financial support for his campaign and fresh troops. As such, Hannibal may not have wanted take Rome, rather it is possible he only wanted to decrease its power and therefore sent an embassy of roman prisoners to settle the negotiations of defeat.

Note: Roman prisoners of war lost their citizenship and patriarchal rights afforded to them. In effect they became the property of the enemy to be exploited or killed as the victor saw fit. However, a roman prisoner of war could gain his freedom by paying his ransom, being recaptured (treated), or possibly petition for freedom if he escaped (Brill’s New Pauly, 878).

Unfortunately for Hannibal, at some point at the during the close of the First Punic War, the customs of prisoner exchange had changed in Rome. The governing body in Rome felt no obligation to uphold the customs of the world which they helped establish (Hopkins, 17-18). This change was an ethical change in society which now held strong belief of honor and what it meant to be a soldier of Rome. Romans were not apt to negotiate terms upon their defeat. Hannibal may have underestimated the pride and society of the Roman state (Lazenby, 42).

Perhaps this Roman notion of honor is best understood from the senator T. Manlius Torquatur, who was under the persuasion to disallow the liberation of the prisoners of war despite the public opinion. He argued two points. First, the prisoners were idle cowards who made no attempt to save themselves. And second, they didn’t truly defend the camp, and in actuality gave up, reserved to their fate as prisoners of war (Livy, 22.60).Further Livy records the senators held other reservations against the ransoming of the captive Romans, the most noteworthy being monetary (22.61). O’Connell coincides that the refusal for the ransoming of the slaves was strictly a monetary one. As he makes claim that the families of the captive soldiers were denied that ability to pay the ransom (168).

Nonetheless, upon these points the senate voted against the ransoming of the prisoners. The decision from the senate was to Hannibal’s dismay, the prisoners we sold into slavery and some slaughtered (O’Connell, 168). Hannibal was ineffective in convincing Roman allies to defect. Thus, Hannibal’s plan was then thwarted as his ability acquire necessary provisions for his army and his ability to create battle with the learning Romans.

Works cited:

“Hannibal Leads Carthaginians.” 2012. The History Channel website. Feb 22 2012, 9:29

Hopkins, Tighe. Prisoners of War. London : Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton and Kent Co 1914.

Livy, Titus. “Livy’s History of Rome: Book 22 The Disaster of Cannae.” The History of Rome, Vol. III  18 Feb. 2012. Online.

Lazenby, John. Was Maharbal Right?. Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies, 41: (1996) 39–48. Print. doi: 10.1111/j.2041-5370.1996.tb01912.x

Messer, Rick Jay. The influence of Hannibal of Carthage on the art of war and how his legacy has been interpreted. MA thesis. Kansas State University Manhattan, Kansas 2009. Print.

O’Connell, Robert L. The ghosts of Cannae : Hannibal and the darkest hour of the Roman republic. New York : Random House, 2010. Print.

“Romans as Prisoners of War.” Brill’s New Pauly: Encyclopedia of the Ancient World. Antiquity Vol. 11 English Ed. 2007.


Filed under Uncategorized

Alexander the Great – The epitome of siege Equipment in the battle of Tyre and a little boasting.

Perhaps the most notorious siege of Alexander the Great was that of Tyre in 332 BC. The potential for siege machinery was perhaps first understood by Alexander’s father King Philip, but Alexander likewise saw the benefit for the equipment and better epitomized its use during his campaign against Persia. The use of machinery to besiege cities was made relatively shorter compared to the past where a city was circumscribed by an opposing attacker. (Potter 127).

Brief History and Account of the Siege of Tyre given by Arrian.

After Alexander the Great was denied permission to enter the city of Tyre and sacrifice to the god Herakles, he considered the consequences to his empire if Tyre was left to their own devices. Therefore, Alexander convinced the generals of the need to capture the threatening Tyre, despite the apparent naval and defensive advantages Tyre held. Tyre had a much larger navy (being a port city) and also was a great defensive stronghold (being an island surrounded by a large wall). (2.18.2-4). Arrian mentions the size of the wall to be “150 feet high and proportionately thick” (2.21.4).


Aerial view of Tyre taken in aprox. 1934

Despite these detriments, Alexander was not deterred and found it in his best interest to build a mole or causeway from the Phoenician inland shore to the Island (Arrian, 2.18.2-4).  As the construction of the mole became closer to the city, it also drew deeper into the water and eventually the mole and its workers became vulnerable to the ranged ballistic attacks from the wall and the triremes in the Tyrian military. This temporarily halted the construction of the mole as Alexander then ordered his engineers and workers to build two siege towers on the edge of the mole, which would hold equipment designed to counter-fire against the Tyrians. Further, Alexander’s engineers draped the towers with skins as to better shield the workers and provide cover so they could resume their work on the mole (2.18.5-6).

In retaliation the Tyrians boarded vessels filled with flammable materials which they deployed against the towers and then set fire to them; thus, destroying the towers and much of the progress of the mole (2.19.1-5).

Alexander comprehended that the siege would be futile as long as the Tyrians held the upper hand, therefore, he instructed his engineers to widen the mole and to construct more siege equipment.  Alexander then left for the surrounding Phoenician regions to procure reinforcements by claiming dues owed from kings and granting amnesty towards others (2.19.6-2.20.1-8).

Alexander amassed a large navy, infantry, and engineers and again returned to the siege of Tyre in approximately 11 days. In a defensive maneuver the Tyrian navy took position in their two harbors one facing Sidon and the other facing Egypt (2.20.7-8). While the Tyrian navy was held at bay, war engines were built and assembled on the mole, horse-transports, and slow sailing triremes. Alexander then had the war machines bought across the mole and started bombardment against the wall. Ships holding siege machinery was halted until large stones could be hauled from the water as they could not get in range for their weapons. (2.21-1-3).

Taking countermeasures, the Tyrians attempted to cut the anchors cords away from the triremes moving the stones but were thwarted by the Macedonians who used chains. In a last attempt, the Tyrian navy attacked some empty moored ship destroying a few. However, in return Alexander set up a blockade preventing other Tyrian vessels to make it out of the harbor and the set out to defeating the vessels which had attacked the moored ships (2.21.4-7-22.1-5).

The siege equipment at the site of the wall proved to be unsuccessful; therefore, Alexander took the ships holding siege equipment around the island bombarding various points along the wall eventually breaking through. Initially, Alexander attempted to enter the city but was fought back (2.22.6-7).

Alexander, waiting two days later, is determined to enter the city. He instructed the siege equipment to fire at the wall for a considerable length of time and then prepared and eventually landed on the island capturing Tyre (2.23.1-6).

The End – of the brief history lesson.

Some discussion and boasting in Alexander’s behalf…

As stated earlier the battle of Tyre is perhaps one of the most famous sieges of Alexander’s campaign. It is at this battle when we see siege machinery used to break down a wall which surrounds a city as well as the use of battering-rams at sea (Nossov, 40-41). Likewise, this example displays a diverse array of siege equipment including: torsion projectors which fired arrows (katapetai) and stones (litoboloi or petroboloi), as well as battering-rams, and towers in diverse offensive and defensive methods.

Diodorus (17.43.1 and 17.45.1-4) goes into more detail regarding the technological innovations introduced by both sides during this siege. Alexander’s engineers devised catapults large enough to hurl stones capable of smashing the Tyrian walls, apparently the first time artillery weapons had been used against fortifications rather than personnel. The Tyrians for their part made cushions out of hides stuffed with seaweed to absorb the impact of the stones, and further warded them off with some sort of wheel-like device that deflected missile fire as it spun around. Phoenicians were famous in antiquity and their engineering skill, so it is not surprising that Alexander recruited much of the local talent into his army or that both sides in the conflict made rapid advances in military technology over the course of the seven-month siege (qtd. in Arian by Mensch, 88).

During Alexander’s campaign he included engineers in his baggage train throughout his expedition, as Potter puts it: “Alexander brought experts in siege warfare, katapeltaphetai, with him, and their extraordinary accomplishment at places such as Tyre show that they could construct massive weapons on the spot and improve their technology as the years passed” (Potter, 127). Engles pointed out that in Areia it was clear that the use of carts would be used to transport siege machinery but also engineers would carry tools and supplies required to build equipment (15-17). The ability to build rather than transport siege equipment allowed the army to move swiftly and efficiently, while most likely allowing the equipment to be more reliable and adaptable depending on the situations Alexander and his army found themselves in. Stark examples of this can be obtained through recall of Arrian provides us.

* I found some good examples (in my opinion) of some of the siege equipment that would have been used during Alexander’s campaign at and some nice images of the battle at I have contacted them for permission to use some images but have yet to hear a reply. Professor Payne, maybe if you get a chance to look at these you could tell me if any of them are out of copyright if fall under fair-use. In the interim I hope the class enjoys!

Works Cited:

Arian. The Landmark Arrian: the campaigns of Alexander a new translation. Trans. Pamela Mensch. Ed. James Romm and Robert B. Strassler. New York: Pantheon Books-Random House, 2010.

Engels, Donald W. Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

Image GEOEYE , Google Earth, and ORIONN-ME. 2012 Map. “Harbor of Tyre, Lebanon.” Data Sio, NOAA, U.S. NAVY, NGA, GEBCO.  9 Feb. 2012.


Potter, David. “Alexander the Great and Hellenistic Warfare.” The Ancient World at War. Ed. Philip de Souza. New York, NY: Thames & Hudson, 2008. 119-38.

Nossov, Konstanin. Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons: A Fully Illustrated Guide to Siege Weapons and Tactics. Guilford: The Lyons Press-The Globe Pequot press, 2005.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Battle of Marathon Post

Brief  History and Aftermath

The year is 490 BC and the Persian King, Darius I, knows no restraints in his conquest for vengeance against his enemies from the Ionian Revolt. In 492 and 491 Darius built his army and commanded that vessels be constructed to transport his army in order to overtake the Greeks (Doenges 2). A force of 9,000  Athenians and 1,000 Plataeans held their position against 600 triremes and an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 Persian infantry in Marathon, Greece. (Hammond 32).  

After approximately 5 days of waiting the Athenian infantry still held its advantageous position.  The Persian force desiring to remove the Athenian force from its defensive position at last gave up. Datis, the Persian commander, consented to the fight in fear that the Spartans may show up. On September 11, 490 BC the battle ensued as the Persian and Athenian forces mingled to test their fate. Datis moved his forces opposite from the Athenian infantry with their backs to the sea that they had entered days before. Sixteen-hundred yards away, the Athenians marched until they were at approximately 200 meters from the first Persian line  – just out of range from the Persian archers (Hammond 29).

“Elelue! Eleleu!” The Athenians ran the last 200 meters colliding into the Persian force (

The Persians pushed through the strategic weak point in the Athenian infantry’s line. The Persians found that the Athenians had overtaken them on the wings and were now folding in on them (Doenges 13).

In fear, the Persian army retreated into the unfamiliar marshes toward the sea in which they entered, clinging to the boats which brought them. Many were slaughtered perhaps most losing their lives in the retreat. Seven ships were captured. At the end of the battle 6,400 Persians had been slain compared to the 192 Athenians who won a noble victory. File:Hill where the Athenians were buried after the Battle of Marathon.jpg This image is the burial mound for the 192 Athenian soldiers who lost their lives at the battle of marathon (Johnson).

After pushing the Persians back to sea, they sailed around Sounion. It is assumed,  in hopes that they might invade and conquer Athens. As the Athenians observed the route which the Persians took towards Athens, they tiresomely marched toward Athens to meet the opposing fleet. Because of the timely return to Athens by the Athenians, the Persians sailed back toward Asia (Doenges 15).

The Spartan force arrived a day later and witnessed the calamity distributed to the Persians acknowledging that the Athenians “had won a great victory” (

Although the Athenians leaned their foes the Persians we not invincible, fear still ensued in the hearts of the Athenians that the Persians would shortly come back. For a decade later the people and politics were aroused by the ongoing threat that Darius would seek yet another vengeance against them. Themistocles rose to the challenge revitalizing and enlarging the Athenian Military (Doenges 17).



Doenges, Norman A. “The Campaign and Battle of Marathon.” Historia: Zeitschrift fur Alte Geschichte Bd. 47, H. 1 (1st Qtr., 1998): 1-17 JSTOR Weber State University, Ogden UT. Jan. 2012 <>
Hammond, N. G. L. “The Campaign and the Battle of Marathon.” The Journal of hellenisc Studies, Vol. 88, (1968): 13-57 JSTOR Weber State University, Ogden UT. Jan 2012 <>.

Johnson, Ryan. “Hill where the Athenians were buried after the Battle of Marathon.” 3 April 2007. 29 January 2012 <>. “Battle of Marathon.” (Jan. 9 2012). Jan 2012. <>.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cohort II, Marathon, Thermopylae & Salamis