IX. GREEK SCIENCE OF THE ALEXANDRIAN OR HELLENISTIC PERIOD

"Marcellus himself, with threescore galleys of five rowers at every bank, well armed and full of all sorts of artillery and fireworks, did assault by sea, and rowed hard to the wall, having made a great engine and device of battery, upon eight galleys chained together, to batter the wall: trusting in the great multitude of his engines of battery, and to all such other necessary provision as he had for wars, as also in his own reputation. But Archimedes made light account of all his devices, as indeed they were nothing comparable to the engines himself had invented. This inventive art to frame instruments and engines (which are called mechanical, or organical, so highly commended and esteemed of all sorts of people) was first set forth by Architas, and by Eudoxus: partly to beautify a little the science of geometry by this fineness, and partly to prove and confirm by material examples and sensible instruments, certain geometrical conclusions, where of a man cannot find out the conceivable demonstrations by enforced reasons and proofs. As that conclusion which instructeth one to search out two lines mean proportional, which cannot be proved by reason demonstrative, and yet notwithstanding is a principle and an accepted ground for many things which are contained in the art of portraiture. Both of them have fashioned it to the workmanship of certain instruments, called mesolabes or mesographs, which serve to find these mean lines proportional, by drawing certain curve lines, and overthwart and oblique sections. But after that Plato was offended with them, and maintained against them, that they did utterly corrupt and disgrace, the worthiness and excellence of geometry, making it to descend from things not comprehensible and without body, unto things sensible and material, and to bring it to a palpable substance, where the vile and base handiwork of man is to be employed: since that time, I say, handicraft, or the art of engines, came to be separated from geometry, and being long time despised by the philosophers, it came to be one of the warlike arts.

"But Archimedes having told King Hiero, his kinsman and friend, that it was possible to remove as great a weight as he would, with as little strength as he listed to put to it: and boasting himself thus (as they report of him) and trusting to the force of his reasons, wherewith he proved this conclusion, that if there were another globe of earth, he was able to remove this of ours, and pass it over to the other: King Hiero wondering to hear him, required him to put his device in execution, and to make him see by experience, some great or heavy weight removed, by little force. So Archimedes caught hold with a book of one of the greatest carects, or hulks of the king (that to draw it to the shore out of the water required a marvellous number of people to go about it, and was hardly to be done so) and put a great number of men more into her, than her ordinary burden: and he himself sitting alone at his ease far off, without any straining at all, drawing the end of an engine with many wheels and pulleys, fair and softly with his hand, made it come as gently and smoothly to him, as it had floated in the sea. The king wondering to see the sight, and knowing by proof the greatness of his art; be prayed him to make him some engines, both to assault and defend, in all manner of sieges and assaults. So Archimedes made him many engines, but King Hiero never occupied any of them, because he reigned the most part of his time in peace without any wars. But this provision and munition of engines, served the Syracusan's turn marvellously at that time: and not only the provision of the engines ready made, but also the engineer and work-master himself, that had invented them.

"Now the Syracusans, seeing themselves assaulted by the Romans, both by sea and by land, were marvellously perplexed, and could not tell what to say, they were so afraid: imagining it was impossible for them to withstand so great an army. But when Archimedes fell to handling his engines, and to set them at liberty, there flew in the air infinite kinds of shot, and marvellous great stones, with an incredible noise and force on the sudden, upon the footmen that came to assault the city by land, bearing down, and tearing in pieces all those which came against them, or in what place soever they lighted, no earthly body being able to resist the violence of so heavy a weight: so that all their ranks were marvellously disordered. And as for the galleys that gave assault by sea, some were sunk with long pieces of timber like unto the yards of ships, whereto they fasten their sails, which were suddenly blown over the walls with force of their engines into their galleys, and so sunk them by their over great weight."

Polybius describes what was perhaps the most important of these contrivances, which was, he tells us, "a band of iron, hanging by a chain from the beak of a machine, which was used in the following manner. The person who, like a pilot, guided the beak, having let fall the hand, and catched hold of the prow of any vessel, drew down the opposite end of the machine that was on the inside of the walls. And when the vessel was thus raised erect upon its stem, the machine itself was held immovable; but, the chain being suddenly loosened from the beak by the means of pulleys, some of the vessels were thrown upon their sides, others turned with the bottom upwards; and the greatest part, as the prows were plunged from a considerable height into the sea, were filled with water, and all that were on board thrown into tumult and disorder.