On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvius Pollio, creator; Morgan, M. H. (Morris Hicky), 1859-1910, translator

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, termed in Greek e)piba/qra 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, termed in Greek e)sxa/ra, 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, termed on Greek a(maco/podes 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 trees.

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 bridgings, 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 of boards, and eaves sloping down

wards, 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, termed in Greek have all the other details as described above, but their fronts are constructed like the angels 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 bridgings fastened transversely, and a flooring laid on them protected the parts beneath.

4. It had, moreover, a middle flooring on girts, where scorpiones 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 pounds.