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date: 27 November 2022

siegecraft, Greeklocked

siegecraft, Greeklocked

  • John F. Lazenby


The Greek national epics focused on the siege of a city, but it took ten years to capture *Troy, even if, in the end, the ‘wooden horse’ was some kind of sophisticated siege device. The inability to take walled towns other than by treachery or blockade persisted into the historical period, despite a growing awareness of such techniques as the Persian siege-mound (cf. Hdt. 1. 162. 2) and undermining (Hdt. 5. 115. 2). *Pericles (1) is said to have been the first to use ‘siege-engines’ (mēchanai) at *Samos in 440/39 bce—they included ‘rams’ and ‘tortoises’ (i.e. sheds to protect undermining parties: Diod. Sic. 12. 28. 2–3). But despite the Athenian reputation for siegecraft (cf. Thuc. 1. 102. 2), they took three years to capture *Potidaea (432–429), and mainly relied on blockade, though in 430 they made some use of ‘siege-engines’, perhaps towers (Thuc. 2. 58. 1). Similarly, though the Spartans and their allies used a mound, battering-rams and even fire against *Plataea (Thuc.


  • Greek Material Culture
  • Science, Technology, and Medicine

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