The ditch-filling tortoise of Diades

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The ditch-filling tortoise of Diades


It was used in sieges for the levelling of ground and the filling of defensive ditches for easier approach of other siege machines. It was constituted by a wooden cage on wheels and a hipped roof covering approximately 120 square metres for the protection of the digging and ditch-filling crew. The exposed walls were covered with iron sheets, fresh wickerwork, clay mixed with hair, and padded rawhide and lambskins (stuffed with vinegar-soaked chaff or green seaweed) in order to neutralise incendiary arrows and to absorb the blow of stones launched by the enemy. An ingenious placement system of the axle wheel bearing allowed its forward, sideway and diagonal movement. On another tortoise, the digging tortoise, the front face was vertical to enable better contact with the wall and easier sabotage by the diggers.

SOURCES: "Vitrouvius, On architecture X", "Plutarch, Lives parallel, Demetrios", "Diodoros of Sicily", "Athinaeus, On machines", "Philon of Byzandium, Parasceuastika and poliorcetica"