The belly-bow ("gastraphetes") (the most ancient catapult)

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The belly-bow ("gastraphetes")
(the most ancient catapult)


It was a bow which the operator cocked by placing and pressing between his stomach ("gastro") and a stable obstacle. Thus, the application of greater force was ensured but also the greater stretch of the bowstring. It was constituted by a powerful and not so flexible bow which had an inflexible bowstring (as all bows of antiquity) and a transverse wooden case ("syrigx") with a saw-toothed board on each side. The case had dovetail form in which a wooden beam ("slider") could run securely. The slider had, on each side through articulations, two small parts ("pawls" or "blocks") which locked when the toothed boards were cocked. On the surface, it had a semi-circular groove on which the arrow was placed. Furthermore, at the rear there was a ratchet and pawl system. This was constituted by a metal claw (retaining pin) articulated on two stanchions (holders) and two teeth which held the bowstring and by a turning peg ("trigger") which secured or released the claw.

SOURCES: "Heron of Alexandria, Belopoeica"