In the above photo, the stand in the foreground seems like just the ticket for Firefly.  I believe these machines are by the legendary Mr. Wilkins.  They appear to reflect the design seen on Trajan’s column, shown in the photo below.

My apologies for not providing credit to the persons responsible for the above photos. They are something I acquired from somewhere, and have no idea where (will correct as soon as I find out).  Update: thanks to Martin and Randi for their attached comments that straighten out the authorship of these photos.  Glad somebody can keep this old metal-pounder in line.

It is interesting that the Trajan’s column depiction does not show the limbs of the ballista.  With an outswinger they should be clearly visible; while  an inswinger, at full cock and at this oblique angle, the limbs would be pretty well hidden by the field frames and stock.  Because of this, it seems like a simpler and more direct argument to say that this ancient depiction is of an inswinger rather than an outswinger.  To make the case for an outswinger from this artwork,  we would have to make explanations about the missing limbs based on some kind of artistic license.   To my simple machinist’s mind, that is just the kind of needless complexity for which Mr. Occam dishes out his razor sharp spankings.

Also, we note that the long groove shown on the side of the stock may indicate the presence of a static rail system for the catch assembly to ride on.  Perhaps Firefly is on the right track here after all.

2 Responses to “Artistic licence and literal precision”

  1. Martin McAree says:

    Hello There,

    The two Cheiroballistra were made by Len Morgan of Fabrica The machine in the background is a 3 span Scorpiones, also probably made by Len or Tom Feeley. Tom Feeley, Len Morgan and Alan Wilkens work as a team for artillery development. They also made my own artillery. If there’s any information you need please let me know and I’ll ask Len or Tom for you.

    They are currently working on a Carroballista of the type shown on Trajans Column. This is a larger version of the cheiroballistra equivalent to the older 3 span.



  2. Randi Richert says:

    The bottom picture is one of mine. It’s a photoshop of my version of a carroballista base transposed over Trajan’s column. It was part of a photostudy I did to back-check my ideas relative to the historical evidence. I was looking for a design that squared with all the scenes in Trajan’s, Marcus Aurelius, and the Cupid Gem. It is a direct descendant of the Italic A shaped base on the gem, with the main column shortened so that it sits in the bed of a cart, while the backstay hangs off the back of the bed. I call it a “Lazy Rho” shape because it resembles a greek “P”/Rho leaning forwards. I believe it would still be the proper type for your later Orsova-based Firefly.
    Unlike Alan Wilkins, I think that the Cupid gem is a very late (post Vitruvius) wood framer, the base of which evolved into the carroballista base. I’m working on a 1/2 scale version of the cupid, using the washer size and battleplate from Cremona. Next will be a Lyon-sized carroballista to go in the back of a two-wheeled mule cart that I’ve built.
    I agree that you (and John Anstee) were right about the static rail// sliding block concept. I’d go even further to say that once the Cheiroballista was scaled up to include a winch and stand the whole “forehand” (all of the case forward of the ladder) became superfluous and was lopped off to save weight. Only the rail needed to extend beyond the frame for the weapon to function. Think of it as a “sporterized” or carbine version of the stock. You don’t need a forehand on a howitzer, do you?
    Feel free to contact me if you’re interested in the design.

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