jueves, 24 de mayo de 2012


The first real artillery was developed in the Greek city of Syracuse on the orders of the current Tyrant, Dionysus I, in 400 B.C. in preparation for a war with Carthage. The weapon that the Greek engineers came up with is called the Gastraphetes, which is Greek for “Belly Bow”. The Gastraphetes was used to great effect by the Sryacusans against the Carthaginians in the siege of Moyta; they even managed to push back a Carthaginian relief fleet by using the weapon. It would take several decades before the rest of the Greek world would know what the Sryacusans had invented, it is said that the first Greek outside of Syracuse to see a Gastraphetes was King Archidamos II of Sparta who said when he saw it “O Herakles (Hercules)! The valor of men is extinguished!”

 After this first artillery piece there came even more as other Greek engineers sought to expand and surpass the Gastraphetes. From the Gastraphetes there comes two distinct branches of artillery, torsion and non-torsion, until the arrival of gunpowder in Europe the torsion artillery was the most powerful. The first artillery piece to be invented as an immediate result of the Gastraphetes was the Oxybeles, which is Greek for “bolt shooter”. 

The Oxybeles was invented in 375 B.C. as a heavy base mounted weapon, it had the ability of being able to pierce most shields and armor up to a range of 400 meters, because of this the Greeks named all weapons of this type as katapeltes, Greek for shield piercer, this is where we get our word catapult. The next step up in artillery technology was the Lithobolos, which first appeared around 335 B.C. Larger versions of the Lithobolos were called the Palintonon or Ballista. The family of weapons that range between the Lithobolos and Palintonon are referred too as the ballista family of artillery. This family of weapons first saw use in the arsenal of the Greeks against the invading Macedonians under Philip II in 354-353 B.C. 

When the Romans came to the fore as a world power they used Greek artillery with some modifications of their own, however they also developed some distinctly Roman artillery as well. By the time of the 2nd Punic War the Romans had a good deal of Romanized Greek artillery, but they also had developed some artillery of their own by this time. The Scorpion of Vitruvius was a smaller more advanced form of the ballista; instead of stone balls the scorpion threw large arrows. Later during the time of the Roman Empire another Roman development of the ballista, the Cheiroballista designed by the brilliant Heron of Alexandria the Cheiroballista was framed with metal, which meant that the Cheiroballista could last longer then any other weapon of its kind. But the largest of all Roman artillery is a giant one armed torsion engine called the Onager, Latin for wild donkey.

 Note: The scale figure doesn´t correspond to the historical period.
    Nota: La figura no corresponde a la época. 

miércoles, 23 de mayo de 2012

Roman Equipment / Equipo Romano



This classic armor of the Roman Army, came into use during the early First Century AD. Its origin is unknown. To the average person, this style of cuirass denotes the Roman Legionary Soldier. The term applied by the Romans to this armor is now lost to us; however, "Lorica" is Latin for armor and "Segmentata" is a medieval or modern term adopted to describe the system of segments or plates assembled with leather straps and buckles or bronze or iron hooks and eyes along with internal leather straps, hence the current name of Lorica Segmentata. The term "Laminata" is now coming into use in leu of "Segmentata" to describe this type of body armor. The plates were not laminated in the sense that there were two layers of metal laminated together. "Lamina" was the latin term for metal and thus the separate segments were termed as "Lames". The terms "Lamina" and "Lames" were also applied to "scale" or "Squamata" armor as well. 

 The first types of this armor were termed "Corbridge A or B", based on several partial examples found as a part of the so-called Corbridge Hoard, near Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland, England. The Type "A" was connected together by internal and external leather straps and bronze buckles. The Type "B" still utilized internal leather straps to connect the individual plates, but substituted bronze or iron hooks and eyes, in instead of external straps and buckles, to secure the shoulder units to the torso girdle sections. 

A later version, the so-called "Newstead" Lorica, adopted toward the end of the First Century AD; was a less costly and simpler type of this armor adopted around 100 AD and is based on a partial example found at Newstead Scotland. It was first thought that this style of lorica omitted the hinges and three piece structure on the shoulder units. Recent research indicates that the "Newstead" did have hinges that were larger and wider to make them stronger and less prone to breakage; which was a problem with the smaller hinges found on the "Corbridge" lorica. The "Newstead" was composed of fewer plates overall and was somewhat less comfortable to wear than the more complicated and flexible "Corbridge" style. See the Newstead page for more details. For what ever reason, segmentata plate armor fell out of favor with the Roman Army by the early Third Century (201-300) AD with a general return to Hamata "ring" maille armor. 



The pilum was a heavy javelin commonly used by the Roman legions in ancient times. It was about two meters long overall, consisting of an iron shank about 7 mm in diameter and 60 cm long with pyramidal head. The iron shank was socketed and was secured to a wooden shaft. A pilum usually weighed between two and four kilograms, with the versions produced during the Empire being a bit lighter.

Pila (plural of pilum) were designed to penetrate both shield and armour, wounding the wearer, but if they simply stuck in a shield they could not easily be removed. The iron shank would bend upon impact, weighing down the enemy’s shield and also preventing the pilum from being re-used.

Legionaries of the Late Republic and Early Empire often carried two pila, with one sometimes being lighter than the other. Standard tactics called for a Roman soldier to throw his pilum at the enemy just before charging to engage with his gladius. They could also be used in hand to hand combat, or as a barrier against mounted charges. Some pila had small hand-guards, to protect the wielder if he intended to use it as a melee weapon, but it does not appear that this was common.


Essentially an Iron dart head or spear head, with a lead weight attached to the anterior end.  The result is a short dart which when mated with a short wooden shaft with feathers allowed a soldier to throw the dart either over hand or under hand.  The whole dart in original form with the wooden shaft would likely have been at least 30 cm long depending on the type.

The following are some sketches of other examples, including some spear heads.  As is obvious there was some variation in style and size.

The following are some examples of reconstructed Plumbata

The visible Iron shaft in this piece is 9cm long, with the remaining 6 cm being the lead weight.  The condition of the piece is excellent, showing the long triangular head with the slightly angled barbs. The lead has a pale patina and a small area which has come off shows some of the iron shaft underneath.  At the rear, the lead weight is hollow to fit the organic wooden shaft which has now since long eroded away.

 Plumbatas being thrown 

This Plumbata appears unbent and is still very straight, indicating that this was not one that had been used, but rather part of a supply or just made item that had not yet seen combat.


martes, 8 de mayo de 2012

XVIth Century Crossbow

A crossbow is a weapon consisting of a bow mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, often called bolts or quarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.

Historically, crossbows played a significant role in the warfare of East Asia, Europe, and the Mediterranean. Today, they are used primarily for target shooting and hunting.

 This is a fully functional crossboow



martes, 1 de mayo de 2012

lunes, 16 de enero de 2012

battering ram / ariete

A battering ram is a siege engine originating in ancient times and designed to break open the masonry walls of fortifications or splinter their wooden gates. It was used, too, in ancient Romanmines and quarries to attack hard rocks.
In its simplest form, a battering ram is just a large, heavy log carried by several people and propelled with force against an obstacle; the ram would be sufficient to damage the target if the log were massive enough and/or it were moved quickly enough (that is, if it had enough momentum). Later rams encased the log in an arrow-proof, fire-resistant canopy mounted on wheels. Inside the canopy, the log was swung from suspensory chains or ropes.
Rams proved effective weapons of war because old fashioned wall-building materials such as stone and brick were weak in tension, and therefore prone to cracking when impacted with sufficient force. With repeated blows, the cracks would grow steadily until a hole was created. Eventually, a breach would appear in the fabric of the wall—enabling armed attackers to force their way through the gap and engage the inhabitants of the citadel.
The introduction in the later Middle Ages of siege cannons, which harnessed the explosive power of gunpowder to propel weighty stone or iron balls against fortified obstacles, spelled the end of battering rams and other traditional siege weapons. Much smaller, hand-held versions of battering rams are still used today, however, by law enforcement officers and military personnel to bash open locked doors.

My birthplace Guanajuto Mexico

Warwick castle England. All pics by Gary Hodgkinson

Royal Museum, Belgium. All pics by Everaert