Ancient Catapults

By Werner Soedel and Vernard Foley Scientific American, March 1979, pp. 150 - 160 In 399 B.C. Dionysius the Elder, ruler of the Greek colony of Syracuse in Sicily, prepared his city for a long war with Carthage by undertaking search and development program. Utilizing such now familiar techniques as the assembly of large teams of specialists, the division of labor to break down the tasks into manageable units, and the provision of financial and psychological incentives. Dionysius clearly aimed from the outset at the production of novel weapons. Out of the program came quadriremes and possibly quinqueremes, ships with the equivalent of four or five banks of oars and so with more potential power behind their rams than the standard three bank triremes. Dionysius' engineers also devised the first catapults.