From the description rendered by Mr Anonymous of the Lightning Arrow Firer that I posted a few days back, one thing seems self evident,  Mr. “A” was deeply impressed with the machine that he saw demonstrated along the banks of the Danube.

Now it may be that this shy and ancient author was the type of fellow who was easily impressed.   On the other hand, in the late Roman empire,  Mr.  Anonymous probably had plenty of opportunity to witness all types of torsion catapults.  That he should call such special attention to the “lightning arrow firer”  as: “….essential for the defense of fortifications, is superior to any others in velocity and power”,  says he at least believed that this new iron based machine was an improvement over any of its predecessors.   It is interesting that he mentions only “iron” and “sinew” as construction materials used in the Lightning.  Probably the stock was still made from wood, but it seems logical to infer that the machine he is describing used much less of this material than previous models.

Superior performance, not much wood,  that’s a strategy I can sign up for when making powerful torsion engines.  The simple truth is that a ballista made largely from timber,  no matter how fancy the joinery or shock absorbing scheme,  is always going to be  more prone to splitting and breaking under sharp shock loads than  a well designed iron based machine.  It seems that after centuries of development the Romans finally figured out that  wood was an inferior material for making the more highly stressed portions of their catapults.

The guild of wooden catapult makers will probably have a major grumble at that one.   When they get too loud, I will remind them that by “iron”  we also mean, of course,  steel.

…. Zing!  Is that a chisel quivering in my door jamb?

Leave a Reply