Projectile Throwing Engines
Sir Ralph Payne-Gallwey
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Catapult History - Historical Catapult Artists, Historians and Engineers

These  siege  engines  when  only  of  moderate  size  were  not  always 
successful, as in some cases the walls of a town were so massively built that the 
projectiles of the enemy made little impression upon them. Froissart tells us that it 
was then the habit of the defenders of the walls to pull off their caps, or produce 
cloths, and derisively dust the masonry when it was struck by stones.

Some  of  the  historians,  mechanicians  and  artist  from  whom  information  on 
ballistas,  catapults  and  trebuchets  may  be  derived  are  as follows.  I  name 
them alphabetically irrespective of their periods :

ABBO  :  A  monk  of  Saint-Germain  des  Pris,  born  about  the  middle  of  the  ninth century, died in 923. He wrote a poem in Latin describing the siege of Paris by 
the Northmen in 885-886.

AMMIANUS MARCELLINUS  :  Military  historian.  Died  shortly  after 390.  His  work first printed at Rome 1474. The latest edition is that of V. Gardthausen, 1874-1875.

APPIAN  :  Historian.  Lived  at  Rome  during  the  reigns  of  Trajan,  Hadrian  and Antoninus  Pius,  98-161. The  best  edition  of  his  History  is  that  of  Schweighaeuser, 1785.

APOLLODORUS OF DAMASCUS  :  Built  Trajan’s  Column,  105-113.  Architect  and engineer. Addressed a series of letters to the Emperor Trajan on siege engines (vide Thevenot).

ATHENEUS  :  Lived  in  the  time  of  Archimedes,  B.C.  287-212.  The  author  of  a treatise on warlike engines (vide Thevenot).

BITON : Flourished about 250 B.C. Wrote a treatise on siege engines for throwing 
stones (vide Thevenot).

BLONDEL, FRANCOIS : French engineer and architect ; born 1617 ; died 1686.

CEASAR,  JULIUS (the  Dictator)  :  Born  B.C.  100  ;  died  B.C.  44 Author  of  the ‘Commentaries’ on the Gallic and Civil wars.

CAMDEN, WILLIAM : Born  1551  ; died 1623.  Antiquary. Published his ‘Britannia’ 1586-1607.

COLONNA,  EGIDIO  :  Died  1316.  Archbishop  of  Bourges  1294,  after  having  been tutor  to  Philip  the  Fair  of  France.  His  best  known  works  are  ‘Questions Metaphysicales’  and  ‘De  Regimine  Principum’  ;  the  latter  was  written  about 1280. Colonna gives a description of the siege engines of his time.

DANIEL, P?RE GABRIEL : Historian.  Born 1649 ; died 1728.



DIODORUS (the  Sicilian)  :  Historian.  Lived  under  Julius  and  Augustus  Cesar 
(Augustus died A.D. 14). The best modern edition is that edited by L. Dindorf, 

FABRETTI, RAFFAEL : Antiquary.  Born 1618 ; died 1700.

FROISSART, JEAN : French chronicler. Born about 1337 ; died 1410.  His Chronicles printed  about 1500.  Translated  into  English  by  Lord  Berners,  and  published 1523-1525.

GROSE, FRANCIS  :  Military  historian  and  antiquary.  Born  about 1731  ;  died  1791. Published ‘Military Antiquities’ 1786-1788.

HERON  OF  ALEXANDRIA  :  Mechanician.  Lived  B.C.  284-221.  Benardino  Baldi edited his work on arrows and siege engines, 1616 (vide Thevenot).

ISIDORUS, BISHOP OF SEVILLE : Historian. Died 636.

JOSEPHUS,  FLAVIUS  :  Jewish  historian.  Born  A.D.  37  ;  died  about  the  year  100. Wrote the ‘History of the Jewish Wars’ and also ‘Jewish Antiquities.’ Josephus, acting  as  commander  of  the  besieged,  bravely  defended  Jotapata  A.D.  67, against  the  Roman  general  Vespasian.  He  was  also  present  with  the  Roman army during the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, A.D. 70.

LEONARDO DA  VINCI  :  Italian  painter.  Born  1445  :  died  1520.  In  the  immense volume  of  sketches  and  MSS.  By  this  famous  artist,  which  is  preserved  at Milan  and  entitled  ‘IL  Codice  Atlantico,’  there  are  several  drawings  of  siege engines.

LIPSIUS, JUSTUS : Historian. Born 1547 ; died 1606.

MEZERAY, FRANCOIS E. DE  :  French  historian.  Born 1610  ;  died  1683.  Published ‘Histoire de France,’ 1643-1651.

NAPOLEON III.:  ‘Etudes  sur  l’artillerie,’  complied  by  order  of  the  Emperor  and containing many drawings of the  full sized  models of siege engines  made by 
his orders, with interesting and scientific criticism of their power and effect.

PHILO OF BYZANTIUM  :  A  writer  on  and  inventor  of  warlike  and  other  engines. Lived shortly after the time of Archimedes (Archimedes died 212 B.C.) : was a contemporary of Ctesibius, who lived in the reign of Ptolemy Physcon, B.C.. 
170-117 (vide Thevenot).

PLUTARCH : Biographer and historian. Time and birth and death unknown. He was a young man in A.D. 66.

POLYBIUS : Military historian. Born about B.C. 204. His History commences B.C. 220 and concludes B.C. 146. The most interesting edition is the one translated
into French by Vincent Thuiller with a commentary by de Folard, 1727-1730.

PROCOPIUS : Byzantine historian. Born about 500 ; died 565, the best edition is that of L. Dindorf, 1833-1838.


Criticism.-A fortification being entered by the besiegers, who have made a breach in the outside wall with a battering ram.
A  catapult  is  in  the  corner  of  the  picture,  and  four  men  are  taking  a  ballista  up  the approach to the gateway.
From Polybius.  Edition 1727.



RAMELLI, AGOSTINO : Italian engineer. Born  about 1531  : died 1590. Published a work on projectile and other engines, 1588.

TACITUS, CORNELIUS : Roman historian, Born about A.D. 61.

THEVENOT, MELCHISEDECH : 1620-1692 : Edited a book called ‘The Mathematici Veteres,’  containing  several  treatises  on  the  siege  operations  of  the  ancients including the construction and management of their projectile engines. In this book are to be found the writings on the subject of military engines that were 
complied by Athen€us, Apolloddorus, Biton, Heron and Philo. Thevenot was 
the  King’s  librarian  to  Louis  XIV.  After  his  death  the  manuscript  of 
‘Mathematici Veteres,’ or the ‘The Ancient  Mathematicians’ was revised and 
published by La Hire in 1693. The book was again edited by Boivin, an official 
in the King’s library, who lived 1663-1726. The treatises contained in Thevenot 
were finally re-edited and published by C. Wescher, Paris, 1869. 

VALTURIUS, ROBERTUS : Military author. Living at the end of the fifteenth century. His book ‘ De Re Militari’ first printed at Verona, 1472.

VEGETIUS, FLAVIUS RENATUS :  Roman  military  writer.  Flourished  in  the  time  of the  Emperor  Valentinian  II.,  375-392.  The  best  edition  is  that  of  Schwebel, 1767.

VIOLLET-LE-DUC : French military historian. Published his ‘Dictionnaire raisonn. 
de l’Architecture,’ 1861.

VITRUVIUS POLLIO  :  architect  and  military  engineer  and  inspector  of  military engines under the Emperor Augustus. Born between B.C. 85 and 75.  His tenth book  treats  of  siege  engines.  Translated  into  French  with  commentary  by Perrault, 1673. The most interesting editions of Vitruvius are those containing  the  commentary  on  siege  engines  by  Philander.  The  best  of  these  is  dated 


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