The Genius of Archimedes -- 23 Centuries of Influence on Mathematics, Science and Engineering

Volume 11 of the series History of Mechanism and Machine Science pp 113-131


Archimedes’ Cannons Against the Roman Fleet?

  • Cesare RossiAffiliated withD.I.M.E. Department of Mechanical Engineering for Energetics, University of Naples “Federico II” Email author 

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In the paper is discussed the possibility tat Archimedes built and used against the Roman fleet a steam cannon. It is well-known that Archimedes, during the siege of Syracuse, designed and built several war machines to fight against the Romans. Among these war machines, the legend about the large concave mirrors that concentrated the sun rays burning the Roman ships is rather interesting. On this topic are also interesting some drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci where a steam cannon is described and attributed to Archimedes. Starting from passages by ancient Authors (mainly Plutarchos, Petrarca and Da Vinci), the author investigates on the possibility that Archimedes built a steam cannon and used it to hit the Roman ships with incendiary proiectiles.