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Greetings everyone,

I was wondering about the current state of the research on ancient artillery. Having very recently finished my Master thesis about roman artillery, I extensively read on the subject, and it was clear that academic research in some way reached its conclusion. The latest articles were basically final improvements of the "new" theories that were much discussed since the famous 2003 article from Aitor Iriarte. I'm thinking of the 2011 and 2015 articles from Duncan Campbell (Some hypothesis reexamined and What did the ballista really look like) and the 2009 article from Hart and Lewis (The Hatra ballista). Two monographies also took (some) of these novelties into account (2007's The Catapult from Rihll and 2008's Oxford handbook of engineering... from Oleson).
So these were my questions :

- Did recent works validate them further - or disprove them?
- Did recent finds bring some confirmations ? - On this subject, the thracian kambestrion from Kayumov, Minchev 2010, in my opinion, could in no way have outswinging arms.
- Did Alan Wilkins further substantiated his static-and-outswinging-artillery position ? I would be very interested to find some new concrete objections on the subject.
- Do general-purpose books on the ancient military art include the modern design of the palintonon artillery ? I would love to see a new edition of Greek and Roman artillery, with some drawings of the real palintonon ballista by Brian Delf !!

Thanks in advance for your answers
(08-09-2016, 01:29 PM)deBeauharnais Wrote: [ -> ]I was wondering about the current state of the research on ancient artillery.
As far as I know, it has stalled. Current researchers are still in thrall to Marsden's 50-year-old work and seem incapable of fresh evaluation (partly because they base their studies on Marsden's versions of the ancient texts).


(08-09-2016, 01:29 PM)deBeauharnais Wrote: [ -> ]Two monographies also took (some) of these novelties into account (2007's The Catapult from Rihll and 2008's Oxford handbook of engineering... from Oleson).
If you are referring to Andrew Wilson's brief discussion of "Engines of war" in chapter 13 of Oleson, this (imho) is a competent overview by a careful scholar based on the work of Marsden and Baatz (as well as my Osprey book). However, if you are referring to Gwyn Davies' two paragraphs on "Artillery" in chapter 27 of Oleson, this author seems to be only vaguely aware of the subject (again imho). And my views on Rihll's disappointing book (and her rather odd ideas) are public knowledge (e.g. my review in Am. J. Archaeol. 2008).


(08-09-2016, 01:29 PM)deBeauharnais Wrote: [ -> ]I would love to see a new edition of Greek and Roman artillery, with some drawings of the real palintonon ballista by Brian Delf !!
So would I. When I wrote the text in 2002, I was still undecided about the implications of the inswinging theory. You will see that I asked Brian to represent the Trajan's Column ballista with conventional design, while we attempted to show the Hatra ballista with inswinging arms (which is not entirely clear from Brian's painting). However, after further thought, I realized that the implications are far more wide-ranging (as I explained in my 2011 paper).
Well yes, I read your 2011 paper, and that's actually the first thing I read when I began my work - And it is quite a hard read when you don't know yet what a washer is !

(08-13-2016, 12:38 PM)D B Campbell Wrote: [ -> ]we attempted to show the Hatra ballista with inswinging arms
Heh, I did not notice them until now !

(08-13-2016, 12:38 PM)D B Campbell Wrote: [ -> ]Current researchers are still in thrall to Marsden's 50-year-old work and seem incapable of fresh evaluation (partly because they base their studies on Marsden's versions of the ancient texts).
That is true. I just saw a drawing of the old ballista in Évolution de la poliorcétique romaine sous la République (...), directly taken from Marsden. And since the book is from 2013, there really is no excuse. I know that new findings often are slow to be taken into account, but it's more than 10 years now.
And yes, it is not a good idea to blindly copy Marsden's translations. For example, he translated that the Procopius' machine had "a component in the shape of a bow", without justifying it, while the greek clearly says that the whole machine actually had the shape of a bow.

I also noticed your harsh criticism of Rihll's book ; it's true that she was maybe too enthusiastic on some matters, but I think it's good too that ancient artillery got a new monography. In my opinion, the next one should be shorter, and more like a response/update of Marsden's books.

On another matter, do you have an opinion on the machines of the De rebus bellicis ? You wrote in 2011 that "it seems to denote a late relation of the Roman iron-framed ballista", but some researchers want to see in them the return of the so-called tension artillery. I think they were torsion machines, especially since the Gornea and Orsova frames are from the same period, but I would be interested to have your point of view.
I would say that since Marsden if we let Duncan and Aitor out of it the only real progress not mentioned above was done by Alan Wilkins. His both JRMES 6 and 11 papers are quite interesting looking both at the scorpio and the chieroballistra.
Yes, I read them, and it is certain that Wilkins added quite a lot to the field. However since 1995 and 2000, and since his 2003 book, the field has considerably changed, and I think most scholars today will find those a little outdated. That's why I asked in my first post if he wrote newer papers on the subject, of which I would not be aware.