espa espa

The repeating (“polybolos”) catapult of Dionysius of Alexandria (3rd c. B.C.) – The first application of motion through level chains

It was a repeating straight-spring catapult that had the possibility of automatically launching arrows in succession and constituted the leading achievement of ancient Greek catapult engineering. The catapult was constructed for the Rhodians. It was equipped with a turning roller that had two grooves (one lengthwise and one helical) and a wooden case that held the arrows to be launched. Also at both sides of its case, it had a pair of pentagonal sprockets (gears) that were connected with an iron-wooden chain. A pin on each chain was connected at the same point with the slider of the catapult. The slider had a bent axle with its end entering the helical groove of the roller above. With the right rotation (by the operator of the weapon) of the hand levers at the rear sprockets the slider moved automatically forwards, the roller turned left automatically until the lengthwise groove was aligned with the corresponding opening of the arrow case and then an arrow fell into the groove of the roller. At the same time the string entered automatically into the claw of the slider and a stable pin pushed the trigger automatically and locked the claw. With the left rotation of the sprockets, the slider moved automatically backwards, the roller turned right automatically until the lengthwise groove was aligned with the receiver of the slider and the arrow fell automatically into this. At the same time, a stable pin pressed the trigger automatically and the claw was lifted. Then the string was released automatically and the arrow was launched. With the continuous backward and forward movement of the hand levers in this way and in minimal time the operator launched in succession all arrows of the quiver.

Skip to content