Immagini della pagina

gained by bribes, who related the storming of Leontium, conformably to the first account. Those reports were favourably received by the multitude, who cried out, that the gates should be shut against the Romans. Hippocrates and Epicydes arrived about the same time before the city, which they entered,

partly by force, and partly by the intelligence they had within it. They killed the magistrates, and took possession of the city. The next day the slaves were made free, the prisoners set at liberty, and Hippocrates and Epicydes elected into the highest offices, in a tumultuous assembly. Syracuse, in this manner, after a short glimpse of liberty. sunk again into its former slavery.


The consul Marcellus besieges Syracuse. The considerable losses of men and ships

occasioned by the dreadful inachines of Archimedes, oblige Marcellus to change the siege into a blockade. He takes the city at length by means of his intelligence within it. Death of Archimedes, killed by a soldier who did not know jiin.

A. M. 3790. Ant. J. C. 214.

Affairs being in this state,* Marcellus thought

proper to quit the country of the Leontines, and advance towards Syracuse. When he was near it, he sent depu ties to let the inhabitants know, that he came to restore liberty to the Syracusans, and not with intent to make war upon them. They were not permitted to enter the city. Hippocrates and Epicydes went out to meet them; and having heard their proposals, replied haughtily, that if the Romans intended to besiege their city, they should soon be made sensible of the difference between attacking Syracuse and attacking Leontium. Marcellus, therefore, determined to besiege the place by sea and land ;t by land, on the side of the Hexapylum; and by sea, on that of the Achradina, the walls of which were washed by the waves.

He gave Appius the command of the land forces, and reserved that of the fleet to himself. It consisted of sixty galleys of five benches of oars, which were full of soldiers armed with bows, slings, and darts, to scour the walls. There were a great number of other vessels, laden with all sorts of machines used in attacking places.

The Romans carrying on their attacks at two different places, Syracuse was in great consternation, and apprehensive that nothing could oppose so terrible a power, and such mighty efforts. And it had indeed been impossible to have resisted them, without the

assistance of one single man, whose wonderful industry was every - thing to the Syracusans : this was Archimedes. He had taken

care to supply the walls with all things necessary to a.good defence. As soon as his machines began to play on the land side

* Liv. l. xxiv. n. 33, 34. Plut. in Marcel. p. 305—307. Polyb. l. yiii. p. 515—518. † The description of Syracuse may be seen in vol. iii.

they discharged upon the infantry all sorts of darts, and stones of enormous weight, which flew with so much noise, force, and rapdity, that nothing could withstand their shock. They beat down and dashed to picces all before them, and occasioned a terrible disorder in the ranks of the besiegers.

Marcellus succeeded no better on the side of the sea. Archimedes had disposed his machines in such a manner, as to throw darts to any distance. Though the enemy lay far from the city, he reached them with his larger and more forcible baliste and catapultæ. When they overshot their mark, he had smaller, proportioned to the distance; which put the Romans into such confusion, as made them incapable of attempting any thing.

This was not the greatest danger. Archimedes had placed lofty and strong machines behind the walls, which suddenly letting fall vast beains, with an immense weight at the end of them, upon the ships, sunk them to the bottom. Besides this, he caused an iron grapple to be let out by a chain; and having caught hold of the head of a ship with this hook, by means of a weight let down within the walls, it was lifted up and set upon its stern, and held so for some time; then by letting go the chain, either by a wheel or a pulley, it was let fall again, with its whole weight, either on its head or side, and often entirely sunk. At other times the machines dragging the ship towards the shore by cordage and books, after having made it whirl about a great while, dashed it to pieces against the points of the rocks which projected under the walls, and thereby destroyed all within it. Galleys frequently seized and suspended in the air, were whirled about with rapidity, exhibiting a dreadful sight to the spectators, after which they were let fall into the sea, and sunk to the bottom with their crew.

Marcellus had prepared, at great expense, machines called sambue, from their resemblance to a musical instrument of that name. He appointed eight galleys of five benches for that purpose, from which the oars were removed, from half on the right, and from the other half on the left side. These were joined together, two and two, on the sides without oars. This machine consisted of a ladder of the breadth of four feet, which when erect was of equal height with the walls. It was laid at length upon the sides of the two galleys joined together, and extended considerably beyond their beaks ; and upon the masts of these vessels were affixed cords and pulleys. When it was to work, the cords were made fast to the extremity of the machine, and men upon the stern drew it up by the help of the pulleys; others at the head assisted in raising it with levers. The galleys afterwards being brought forward to the foot of the walls, the machines were applied to them. The bridge of the sambuco was then let down (no doubt after the manner of a drawbridge,) upon which the besiegers passed to the walls of the place besieged.

This machine had not the expected effect. Whilst it was at a

[ocr errors]

considerable distance from the walls, Archimedes discharged a vast stone upon it that weighed ten quintals,* then a second, and immediately after a third; all of whichr striking against it with dreadful force and noise, beat down and broke its supports, and gave the galleys upon which it stood such a shock, that they parted from each other.

Marcellus, almost discouraged, and at a loss what to do, retired as fast as possible with his galleys, and sent orders to his land forces to do the same. He called also a council of war, in which it was resolved the next day, before sun-rise, to endeavour to approach the walls. They were in hopes, by this means, to shelter themselves from the machines, which, for want of a distance proportioned to their force, would be rendered ineffectual.

But Archimedes bad provided against all contingencies. He had prepared machines long before, as we have already observed, that carried to all distances a proportionate quantity of darts and ends of beams, which, being very short, required less time for preparing them, and in consequence were more frequertly discharged. He had besides made small chasms or loop-holes in the walls at little distances, where he had placed scorpions,t which, not carry. ing far, wounded those who approached, without being perceived but by their effect.

When the Romans had gained the foot of the walls, and thought themselves very well covered, they found themselves exposed either to an infinity of darts, or overwhelmed with stones, which fell directly upon their heads, there being no part of the wall which did not continually pour that mortal haiť upon them. This obliged them to retire. But they were no sooner removed to some distance, than a new discharge of darts overtok them in their retreat; so that they lost great numbers of men, and almost all their galleys were disabled or beaten to pieces, without being able to revenge their loss in the least upon their enemies. For Archimedes had planted most of his machines in security behind the walls ; so that the Romans, says Plutarch, repulsed by an infinity of wounds, without seeing the place or hand from which they came, seemed to fight in reality against the gods.

Marcellus, though at a loss what to do, and not knowing how to oppose the machines of Archimedes, could not, however, forbear jesting upon them. “Shall we persist,” said he to his workmen and engineers,“ in making war with this Briareus of a geometrician, who treats my galleys and sambucas so rudely ? fe infinitely exceeds the fabled giants, with their hundred hands, in his perpetual and surprising discharges upon us.” Murcellus had rea. son for complaining of Archimedes alone. For the Syracusans

* The quintal, which the Greeks called Táncertov, was of several kinds. The lease Welghed a hundred and twenty-five pounds; the largest more than twelve hundred.

| Thc scorpions were machines in the nature of cross-bows, with which the ancients nised to discharge darts and stones.

were really no more than memvers of the engines and machines of that great geometrician, who was himself the soul of all their powers and operations. All other arms were unemployed; for the city at that time made use of none, either defensive or offensive, but those of Archimedes.

Marcellus at length perceiving the Romans so much intimidated, that if they saw upon the walls only a small cord, or the least piece of wood, they would immediately fly, crying out, that Archimedes was going to discharge some dreadful machine upon them, re · nounced his hopes of being able to make a breach in the place, gave over his attacks, and turned the siege into a blockade. "The Romans conceived that they had no other resource than to reduce the great number of people in the city by famine, in cutting off all provisions that might be brought to them either by sea or land During the eight months in which they besieged the city, there were no kind of stratagems which they did not invent, nor any actions of valour left untried, except indeed the assault, which they never dared to attempt more. So much force, upon some occasions have a single man and a single science, when rightly applied. Deprive Syracuse of only one old man, the great strength of the Roman arms must inevitably take the city; his sole presence checks and disconcerts all their designs.

We here see, which I cannot repeat too often, how much interest princes have in protecting arts, favouring the learned, encouraging academies of science by honourable distinctions and actual rewards, which never ruin or impoverish a state. I say nothing in this place of the birth and nobility of Archimedes ; he was not indebted to them for the happiness of his genius and profound knowledge; I consider him only as a learned man, and an excellent geometrician. What a loss would Syracuse have sustained, if, to have saved a small expense and pension, such a man had been abandoned to inaction and obscurity! Hiero was careful not to act in this manner. He knew all the value of our geometrician; and it is no vulgar merit in a prince to understand that of other men. He paid it due honour; he made it useful; and did not stay till occasion or necessity obliged him to do so; it would then have been too late. By a wise foresight, the true character of a great prince and a great minister, in the very arms of peace* he provided all thal was necessary for supporting a siege, and making war with success; though at that time there was no appearance of any thing to be apprehended from the Romans, with whom Syracuse was allied in the strictest friendship. Hence were seen to arise in an instant, as out of the earth, an incredible number of machines, of every kind and size, the very sight of which was sufficient to strike armies with terror and confusion.


* In pace, ut sapiens, aptårit idonea bello. Horat.
And wise in peace prepared the arms of war.

A. M. 3791. Ant. J. C. 213.

There are amongst these machines, some, of which we can scarce conceive the effects, and the reality of which we might be teinpted to call in question, if it were allowable to doubt the evidence of writers, such for instance as Polybius, an almost contemporary author, who treated on facts entirely recent, and sach as were well known to all the world. But how can we refuse to give credit to the uniform consent of Greek and Roman historians, whether friends or enemies, in regard to circumstances of which whole armies were witnesses, and experienced the effects, and which had 80 great an influence in the events of the war? What passed in the siege of Syracuse, shows how far the ancients had carried their genius and art in besieging and supporting sieges. Our artillery, which so perfectly imitates thunder, has not more effect than the engines of Archimedes, if indeed they have so much.

A burning-glass is spoken of, by the means of which Archimedes is said to have burnt part of the Roman fleet. That must have been an extraordinary invention ; but as no ancient author mentions it, it is no doubt a modern tradition, without any foundation. Burning-glasses were known to antiquity, but not of that kind, which indeed seem impracticable.

After Marcellus had resolved to confine himself

to the blockade of Syracuse,* he left Appius be- . fore the place with two-thirds of the army, advanced with the other into the island, and brought over some cities to the Roman interest.

At the same time Himilcon, general of the Carthaginians, arrived in Sicily with a great army, in hopes of re-conquering it, and expelling the Romans.

Hippocrates left Syracuse with ten thousand foot and five hundred horse to join him, and carry on the war in concert against Marcellus. Epicydes remained in the city, to command there during the blockade.

The fleets of the two states appeared at the same time on the coast of Sicily; but that of the Carthaginians, seeing itself weaker

han the other, was afraid to venture a battle, and soon sailed back for Carthage.

Marcellus had continued eight months before Syracuse with Appius, according to Polybius, when the year of his consulship ex: pired. Livy places the expedition of Marcellus in Sicily, and his victory over Hippocrates, in this year, which must have been the second year of the siege. And indeed Livy has given us no account of this second year, because he had ascribed to the first what had passed in the second. For it is highly improbable, that nothing memorable happened in it.

This is the conjecture of Mr. Crevier, professor of rhetoric ir. the college of Beauvais, who has published a new edition of Livy, with remarks, and with which I am convinced the public will be well

* Liv. l. xxiv. n. 35, 56.

« IndietroContinua »