On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

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.