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Study: Archimedes Set Roman Ships Afire with Cannons
LiveScience ^ | June 28, 2010 | Jeremy Hsu

Posted on 07/07/2010 8:20:04 AM PDT by SunkenCiv

Greek inventor Archimedes is said to have used mirrors to burn ships of an attacking Roman fleet. But new research suggests he may have used steam cannons and fiery cannonballs instead.

A legend begun in the Medieval Ages tells of how Archimedes used mirrors to concentrate sunlight as a defensive weapon during the siege of Syracuse, then a Greek colony on the island of Sicily, from 214 to 212 B.C. No contemporary Roman or Greek accounts tell of such a mirror device, however.

Both engineering calculations and historical evidence support use of steam cannons as "much more reasonable than the use of burning mirrors," said Cesare Rossi, a mechanical engineer at the University of Naples "Federico II," in Naples, Italy, who along with colleagues analyzed evidence of both potential weapons.

The steam cannons could have fired hollow balls made of clay and filled with something similar to an incendiary chemical mixture known as Greek fire in order to set Roman ships ablaze. A heated cannon barrel would have converted barely more than a tenth of a cup of water (30 grams) into enough steam to hurl the projectiles.

Channeling steam power

Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci sketched a steam cannon in the late 15th century, which he credited to Archimedes, and several other historical accounts mention the device in connection with Archimedes.

Indirect evidence for the steam cannon also comes from the Greek-Roman historian Plutarch, who tells of a pole-shaped device that forced besieging Roman soldiers to flee at one point from the walls of Syracuse.

The Greek-Roman physician and philosopher Galen similarly mentioned a burning device used against the Roman ships, but used words that Rossi said cannot translate into "burning mirror."

(Excerpt) Read more at livescience.com ...


TOPICS: History; Science; Travel
KEYWORDS: archimedes; discoverychannel; godsgravesglyphs; mythbusters; siegeofsyracuse; syracuse

1 posted on 07/07/2010 8:20:08 AM PDT by SunkenCiv
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To: decimon; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; 1ofmanyfree; 21twelve; 240B; 24Karet; ...

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It's always been interesting; in the 1980s (I think it was) someone tried making bunches of polished bronze mirrors to try to set a dummy ship on fire using focused sunlight, and it didn't work. Nice that someone is taking the ancients at their word, and I'd hate to see Archimedes Screwed (/rimshot!) out of the credit, but this doesn't seem like any big deal to me, whether true or not. Used a catapault to chuck an incendiary onto attackers, whoa. :')

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.
GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother, and Ernest_at_the_Beach
 

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2 posted on 07/07/2010 8:24:11 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: SunkenCiv

Could this be related, somehow, to so-called “Greek Fire”?


3 posted on 07/07/2010 8:25:18 AM PDT by RexBeach ("Duty is ours; consequences are God's." Thomas "Stonewall" jackson)
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To: SunkenCiv

A recent Mythbusters tried the same thing - a human could stand unprotected in the focus. The shields were just too diffuse.


4 posted on 07/07/2010 8:26:13 AM PDT by Technocrat
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To: SunkenCiv

Steam Punk ping!!! THe Japanese had steam driven weapons in a anime series I am a big fan of.


5 posted on 07/07/2010 8:27:29 AM PDT by C19fan
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To: SunkenCiv
Think for one second. Could the current oppupants of greeco-italian culture possibly get off the government largesse put aside the goodlife long enough to live.die/suffer/die and finally conquer ROMAN legions?

You must be writing Barry's script.

6 posted on 07/07/2010 8:30:14 AM PDT by STD (Oil-Bambi's Revenge and econ 101 by the Father of Facist Capitalism)
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To: RexBeach

Given that the article said “The steam cannons could have fired hollow balls made of clay and filled with something similar to an incendiary chemical mixture known as Greek fire...” I’m going to go out on a limb and say “yes”.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.


7 posted on 07/07/2010 8:32:50 AM PDT by Lee'sGhost (Johnny Rico picked the wrong girl!)
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To: SunkenCiv

archimedes_death_ray


8 posted on 07/07/2010 8:37:14 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: SunkenCiv

9 posted on 07/07/2010 8:41:44 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: SunkenCiv

Interesting story about Archimedes. The Roman general who was beseiging the city wanted to spare Archimedes but the soldiers found Archimedes working on a math problem and killed him anyway.


10 posted on 07/07/2010 8:44:11 AM PDT by C19fan
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To: JoeProBono

I knew I should have pinged you. :’)

Blinded by the light, wrapped up like a deuce... that’s got something going for it, blind the attackers, then launch the darts, spears, arrows, and other projectiles while they’re disoriented and no one can give the warning to raise shields. Thwack.


11 posted on 07/07/2010 8:45:32 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: RexBeach; SunkenCiv

Greek Fire from the Chronicle of Ioannis Skylitzis, mid-12th mid-13th century, Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid


12 posted on 07/07/2010 8:51:01 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: JoeProBono

Thank you for that article. Once I get home from my deployment, one of these will be built on our AZ property as an intellectual exercise. My five children will get a hoot from it.


13 posted on 07/07/2010 8:51:34 AM PDT by wbarmy (I decided to be a sheepdog when I saw what happens to sheep.)
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To: Lee'sGhost

Oops. Didn’t read far enough! Thanks, Lee.


14 posted on 07/07/2010 8:51:57 AM PDT by RexBeach ("Duty is ours; consequences are God's." Thomas "Stonewall" jackson)
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To: SunkenCiv

Always thought it would be pretty hard to coordinate a group to be able to focus on one spot. Especially at what is probably a moving target.

They are still using Archimedes Screws to draw water from the Nile in Egypt. At least they were in the early 1980’s.


15 posted on 07/07/2010 8:56:06 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: SunkenCiv
It would make sense to blind enemy sailors with mirrors while cannons fired hollow flaming shot.

Makes for great confusion if you can't see where you are going. Could have even used the mirrors to “guide” ships into a killing lane.

Since the mirrors couldn't set the ships on fire, blinding the pilots and overheating the crew would make them less efficient at attack.

16 posted on 07/07/2010 8:58:02 AM PDT by texas booster (Join FreeRepublic's Folding@Home team (Team # 36120) Cure Alzheimer's!)
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To: C19fan

17 posted on 07/07/2010 9:01:52 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: bigheadfred


18 posted on 07/07/2010 9:05:26 AM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: JoeProBono

Exactly. They sit and spin.


19 posted on 07/07/2010 9:07:24 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: JoeProBono

It brings a misty eyed tear to recall there was a time when, not only were Americans familiar with the name ‘Archimedes’, but were thought competent enough to handle hot things without warning labels and build cannons.

Those, my friends, were the days!


20 posted on 07/07/2010 9:13:12 AM PDT by pingman (Price is what you pay, value is what you get.)
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To: SunkenCiv

I’ve seen other work that suggested the possibility of focused light on Roman ships was feasible at the time. The real problem with this is the Greek Fire part. It’s certainly possible that Archimedes used the stuff, or flaming arrows, etc. to attack the fleet. But no one knows how Greek Fire worked, either.


21 posted on 07/07/2010 9:34:02 AM PDT by sig226 (Bring back Jimmy Carter!!!)
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To: sig226

That’s true. Whatever the formula was, it was lost during the Middle Ages. Its last known use was by the Byzantines against the Saracens.


22 posted on 07/07/2010 9:36:19 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: Peanut Gallery; sionnsar

Cool!


23 posted on 07/07/2010 9:39:38 AM PDT by Professional Engineer (Conservative States of America has a nice ring to it.)
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To: texas booster; C19fan

Ultimately, the point is, the Romans took the city, and Archimedes got chopped. :’)


24 posted on 07/07/2010 9:43:21 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: bigheadfred

I think the Archimedean screw was probably attributed to him, but antedates him by some years. The Egyptians didn’t invent it, apparently, they used (in ancient times, and still do) the shadoof (sp?).


25 posted on 07/07/2010 9:44:35 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: SunkenCiv

I thought the Egyptians used the same type of device/technology to raise the Pyramids. One look and you can see how screwed up they are. Shadouf, shadouf, bod-da-da bod-da-da, shadouf, shadouf


26 posted on 07/07/2010 9:55:54 AM PDT by bigheadfred
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To: SunkenCiv

Methinks you might like this link, article, videos

Nat Geo related, I think:

http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread591116/pg1

underground, under water route to dry rooms, underground temples, road . . .


27 posted on 07/07/2010 9:56:02 AM PDT by Quix (THE PLAN of the Bosses: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2519352/posts?page=2#2)
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To: Quix
Thanks Quix.

mayan underworld site:freerepublic.com
Google

28 posted on 07/07/2010 10:08:00 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: Technocrat

I hate to dispute myth busters, but if the mirror is concave, much like the mirrors used in reflector telescopes, you could set quite a few things on fire and I wouldn’t want to stand in the focus. Bronze mirrors would probably not work, but real mirrors would. At the very least a blinding light could temporarily disorient sailors of opposing ships.


29 posted on 07/07/2010 11:10:42 AM PDT by calex59
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To: Technocrat
A recent Mythbusters tried the same thing - a human could stand unprotected in the focus. The shields were just too diffuse.

A couple of years ago I watched an episode of Mythbusters where they "proved" that you cannot split one arrow with another arrow.

The next day, I watched a show on the History Channel where an expert archer did exactly what Mythbusters claimed could not be done.

30 posted on 07/07/2010 11:16:06 AM PDT by CharacterCounts (November 4, 2008 - the day America drank the Kool-Aid)
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To: calex59
I hate to dispute myth busters, but if the mirror is concave, much like the mirrors used in reflector telescopes, you could set quite a few things on fire and I wouldn’t want to stand in the focus.

The Mythbusters' biggest issue with the "death ray," as I recall, was actually persuading enemy vessels to sit still long enough to do any real damage. They could scorch the wood, but not set it on fire.

31 posted on 07/07/2010 11:40:25 AM PDT by RansomOttawa (tm)
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To: CharacterCounts
A couple of years ago I watched an episode of Mythbusters where they "proved" that you cannot split one arrow with another arrow.

Well, first of all, they were investigating the myth that Robin Hood (or his non-fictional, 12th-century equivalent) could have split an arrow. So off the bat they were limited to the kinds of arrows a medieval archer would have on hand. They acknowledged that you could split arrows made of bamboo or composite materials, if I remember right. But of course Robin wouldn't have had those materials on hand: his arrows were made of wood.

The biggest problem they discovered with wooden arrows was that they tend to split along the grain, so if it isn't parallel to the length of the arrow, then the arrow doing the splitting won't make it all the way up the length of the shaft. I would assume from that, that an arrow with just the right grain could be split.

I was actually surprised that they didn't give a verdict of "plausible" for this myth (under the right conditions, however improbable).

32 posted on 07/07/2010 11:54:32 AM PDT by RansomOttawa (tm)
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To: SunkenCiv
I recall a TV program where they attempted to recreate ancient technology, and they reached the conclusion that a water screw was the only way the Hanging Gardens of Babylon could have been watered.

A Shadoof system might have delivered the volume, but the whole structure would have looked like a building site, cranes and workers instead of vegetation. Whereas a waterscrew system would have been visually non-obtrusive, and the workers could have been hidden below ground.

33 posted on 07/07/2010 3:54:55 PM PDT by Oztrich Boy (a 16 year old Australian girl already did it. And she did it right. - WWJD)
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To: Oztrich Boy

Thanks Oztrich Boy.


34 posted on 07/07/2010 4:24:06 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: SunkenCiv

Should have guessed you’d be light years ahead of me.


35 posted on 07/07/2010 4:45:28 PM PDT by Quix (THE PLAN of the Bosses: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2519352/posts?page=2#2)
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To: JoeProBono; SunkenCiv
Harless Steam Cannon Shoots Ball Bearings

It ain't "harmless" if you put somebody's eye out with that thing!

Wonder how well it would work with plastic sabots & a load of BBs?

Hmmmm...a 6' length of 2" pipe....

36 posted on 07/07/2010 5:18:42 PM PDT by ApplegateRanch (Made in America, by proud American citizens, in 1946.)
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To: ApplegateRanch

37 posted on 07/07/2010 5:25:19 PM PDT by JoeProBono (A closed mouth gathers no feet - Visualize)
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To: ApplegateRanch

Strange that it wasn’t until AFTER 1492 that someone came up with the Spud Gun.


38 posted on 07/07/2010 8:22:40 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: Quix

;’)


39 posted on 07/07/2010 8:25:05 PM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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To: SunkenCiv

Now you know my dirty little secret: I’ve been growing ammunition; not food.


40 posted on 07/08/2010 2:21:08 AM PDT by ApplegateRanch (Made in America, by proud American citizens, in 1946.)
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To: ApplegateRanch

You’ll need both I’m sure, but meanwhile, I think you’ve made the right choice. :’)


41 posted on 07/08/2010 7:00:08 AM PDT by SunkenCiv ("Fools learn from experience. I prefer to learn from the experience of others." -- Otto von Bismarck)
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