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Avete,<br>
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I remember seeing a documentary which compared Rome to China. In it the narrator said that the Chinese had the cross-bow over a thousand years before the Europeans due to the discovery of the Emperor Chin's terracotta warrior statues.<br>
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That isn't true though, is it ?<br>
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My understanding is that the Romans used cross-bows in the late empire. The only thing that is unclear is whether the Romans used cross-bows in warfare or only as a hunting weapon. Why not both ?<br>
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Is it confirmed whether the Romans used cross-bows ?<br>
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-Theo<br>
<p></p><i></i>
Houston, we have a positive on those crossbows...<br>
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Check out:<br>
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The Arch or Orange (relief showing a crossbow)<br>
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The (slightly later) Pictish relief at St Vigeans showing one in use<br>
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A number of typical bone or antler crossbow 'nuts' from Pictish find complexes<br>
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Ammianus Marcellinus' references to 'arcuballistae' (and IIRC 'manuballistae', though that may have been another writer)<br>
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The 'Gastraphetes' of Hellenistic times - I think described by Philo.<br>
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The principle was understood. As to military applications, last time I heard the jury was still out on that past the Hellenistic era. It is, however, quite probable that Chinese crossbows were significantly better than Roman ones - easier on the maintenance, more bang for your buck, and more accurate. Making a good war crossbow is hard, and the depictions of Roman ones I know don't look like the system is designed to hold much power. The 'gastraphetes', on the other hand, may have been a powerful, but fidgety, high-maintenance torsion design. <p></p><i></i>
Turning to facts,<br>
I don't remember any crossbow on Orange's Arch (though I'd really love to be corrected at this point!)<br>
There are two fragments of second century AD funerary relieves from Gaul (Salignac-sur-Loire and Saint-Marcel) depicting crossbows. They are clearly hunting weapons and were probably just cocked by hand like the later Medieval simple crossbows were. The Salignac relief depicts clearly the nut.<br>
There is a Pictish stone depicting a hunter with a crossbow (Drosten stone, at St. Vigeans Museum) but it is dated about ninth century AD.<br>
Arcuballistae and manuballistae are quoted by Vegetius (late fourth century AD) not Ammianus. It can be reached from the meagre evidence that manuballistae were torsion weapons (cheiroballistra is the Greek translation of manuballista) and arcuballistae, crossbows (remember that in French they are still called ar©balete). Both were war weapons. Easter Roman (Bizantine) armies still used a weapon called 'solenarion' which seems to be a crossbow.<br>
The gastraphetes is described by Heron during the first century AD but it seems to have been invented at the beginning of fourth century BC. It was by no means a torsion weapon. Torsion was apparently discovered about fifty years later. The gastraphetes was a crossbow in the sense that it used a powerful composite reflex bow as its source of power but it was a catapult too (the forerunner of all catapults, indeed!) and it used a typical catapult shooting mechanism and stock.<br>
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Aitor <p></p><i></i>
Carlton, Aitor,<br>
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So it <em>is</em> confirmed then that the Romans possessed cross-bows. I guess the documentary I saw relied on older information or was just flat out wrong.<br>
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The only thing that's debatable is whether the Chinese had superior cross bows compared to those of Rome. I tend to think they probably were.<br>
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Aitor, just think of it. If one day it's confirmed that late Romans used cross-bows, what do you think that will cost us to purchase one ?<br>
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Maybe Deepeeka will make some replicas.<br>
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Thanks to you both.<br>
-Theo<br>
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Hi Theodosius,<br>
I am sure your assumption that Chinese crossbows were better is correct, I believe the Chinese had a repeating crossbow... In my mind, that is technological genius! Of course the Romans as a people were also well endowed with technological genius themselves. I admire them more than any of the ancient peoples. <p>Lucius Aurelius Metellus, draconarius, Secunda Brittanica</p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/[email protected]romanarmytalk>Lucius Aurelius Metellus</A> <IMG HEIGHT=10 WIDTH=10 SRC="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v384/Lucius68/Lucius.jpg" BORDER=0> at: 12/9/04 1:59 am<br></i>
Quote:</em></strong><hr>I believe the Chinese had a repeating crossbow... In my mind, that is technological genius!<hr><br>
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Hi, Lucius.<br>
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Yeah that sure is.<br>
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Didn't the Romans have repeating ballistas ?<br>
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In the game "Rome : Total War" they have them. But I'm not up to speed on Roman artillery .<br>
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-Theo <p></p><i></i>
Hi Theodosius,<br>
Yes, the Romans had a repeating ballista, but it was mainly a proto-type, and I don't believe it saw any extensive use. From what I have read, it did not have the range and power of regular ballistas. The fact remains, however, that the Romans did indeed have this technology, which in itself was amazing! You can see technical drawings of this seige engine on Darius Architectus' web site, and I believe Len Morgan over in England has a replica. I <em>think</em> it is Len Morgan... <p>Lucius Aurelius Metellus, draconarius, Secunda Brittanica</p><i></i>

Anonymous

Here is a picture of a Chinese repeating crossbow, invented 3rd century AD and still used in the 1890s:<br>
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<img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v506/205Longbow/chu-ko-nu_220.jpg" style="border:0;"/><br>
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There is a website describing its use here:<br>
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http://www.atarn.org/chinese/rept_xbow.htm
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Here is a Norman crossbow, probably similar to an arcuballista:<br>
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<img src="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v506/205Longbow/xbow0001.jpg" style="border:0;"/><br>
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(This last image is from the website of 'Conquest' by the way). <p>Homo Homini Lupus Every Man is a Wolf to Another Man</p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/[email protected]talk>Carus Andiumae</A> at: 12/10/04 12:33 pm<br></i>
Hi Carus,<br>
Thanks for that photograph. Isn't that amazing?!! Such a weapon proves how sophisticated the ancient peoples actually were. I would imagine that Dionysius' repeating catapulta had a magazine that operated on the same or similar principles as the magazine of the Chinese crossbow, except the Roman repeating catapulta had a chain which operated its action. The chain looked vaguely similar to a modern bicycle chain. Thanks again for that information! <p>Lucius Aurelius Metellus, draconarius, Secunda Brittanica</p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/[email protected]romanarmytalk>Lucius Aurelius Metellus</A> <IMG HEIGHT=10 WIDTH=10 SRC="http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v384/Lucius68/Lucius.jpg" BORDER=0> at: 12/10/04 4:27 pm<br></i>

Anonymous

What would be the point of a repeating Ballista? Knocking a wall down in 2 hours instead of in 10?<br>
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There is a trend in modern war for logical reasons too long to go into here; the higher the rate of fire, the smaller the caliber. Notable exception, the chain gun. <p></p><i></i>
Hagen,<br>
The repeating machine was a dart-shooting catapult, not intended for knocking down walls, just men...<br>
Philon mentions as a drawback of this design that is wasteful to put a lot of darts at the same place but, like the repeating Chinese crossbow, you don't need to aim the following darts at the same point, you can quickly aim to another target while the machine reloads almost 'authomatically'.<br>
A real drawback of both the Greek repeating catapult and Chinese crossbow was lack of power when compared to similar simple machines.<br>
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Theo,<br>
About the Roman arcuballista, the depicted hunting weapons show thick bows and I tend to think that they were of composite nature (you know, the wood is sandwiched between a sinew and a horn layer) but of simple curvature. Bows are expensive, even using modern fiberglass instead of sinew!<br>
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Aitor <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

Yep, Aitor. I forgot that often ballistae were used as field weapons.<br>
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Power vs rate of fire.<br>
The old Dirty Harry line springs to mind; "Make my day". Now if he was surrounded by 30 nuts instaed of one punk, the weapon of choice should be a Glock with 18 rounds, IMO. <p></p><i></i>
Memo to self - do not trust memory of ten-year-old reading!<br>
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Well, now that I have made an utter ass of myself, may I point out that Ammianus does speak of 'ballistarii' in an infantry role? Not sure what to make of them, but they are mentioned...<br>
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Does anyone know about those revolving crossbow nuts? MacDowall writes there are finds dating to Late Roman times, but I can't find a reference. <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

There are blueprints for the 'Repeating Ballista' (Polybolus - sp?) (under Prototype Siege Engines), along with assorted other bolt and stone throwers, including the Gastrophetes, at<br>
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198.144.2.125/Siege/Blueprints.htm<br>
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Carlton, the revolving crossbow nuts are mentioned (and illustrated in sketch form) in Osprey's 'Late Roman Infantryman AD236-535'. <p>Homo Homini Lupus Every Man is a Wolf to Another Man</p><i></i>
You shouldn't be so hard with yourself, Volker, in the end who hasn't made some small blunder from time to time...<br>
Now you're right about Ammianus (XVI, 2, 5). In early summer Julian started a hurried campaign against the Alamanni could only take with him the cataphractarii and the ballistarii. Even if cataphractarii seem suited for a quick march (albeit heavy, they are cavalry), ballistarii look as an odd choice, except if with Dietwulf Baatz we interpret those units af ballistarii rather as manuballistarii, armed with portable torsion crossbows. Read his paper 'Katapulte and mechanische Handwaffen des spätrömischen Heeres' in JRMES 10 (1999) 5-19.<br>
BTW, does anybody in Germany know what has happened with Dietwulf Baatz's webpage (home.t-online.de/home/d.b...pult.htm)? it seems to have vanished... <p></p><i></i>
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