The Roman Artillery

An important part of the Roman army's strategy and tactics was the use of war machines. The use of heavy artillery in the form of huge catapults (Ballistarii) was first taken into use by the Greeks as early as 500 BCE. But the Romans developed it to perfection and used it for sieges and defense. Tactical and strategic bombing has since been a regular part of the armies ' defense and attack. Today it is made with long-range missiles and planes. 

The Roman catapults all used the same basic technique, the torsion technique. The energy brought together in bundles of cables or rope, which tightened up by being twisted. The collected energy is then transferred to an arm of wood or iron. The ropes could be made of tendons or horsehair for more strength. The Achilles tendon from bulls should be totally sovereign. This base-mechanics were therefore used in all kinds of weapons. From large heavy one-arm machines that could break down walls to small handheld "crossbows".


In Denmark,we have several samples of these big machines. Both the The Onager and The Hatra Ballista resides in Hjemsted Oldtidspark in Skærbæk. These were build by COH IIs own Architectus, Henrik Christiansen. Another smaller 1 t. sampel of the Onager is situated in The Medieval Center in Nykøbing Falster.

Onager means "Wild Ass". The name is probably taken because the machine gives a kicks backwards when fired. It weights around 2 t. and can hurl fireballs, stones or other objects up to 400 meters. Onagers were mostly built on site where they were used mainly for sieges. The legionaires only brought the ropes and metal parts and had the machine build on the location. In areas lacking wood, such as Judea, the engines were moved on wheels after oxen. 

Ballista Hatra

The Hatra Ballista is a spear throwing machine that weighs 1.5 tons. This ballista is a reconstruction created on the basis of the bronze fittings that were found at the site of Hatra in Iraq. The machine can fire the spear with tremendous force that can break through up to 5 men in full armor. It is believed that this machine was a part of the city's defense since it was found under the ruins of a tower. If the economy allows it Cohors II is capable of bringing both these machines to an event. 

The Scorpio

The Scorpio was a little "Light" version of the ballista. The machine was likely on a tripod, but is also recognized with wheels on Trajan's pillar.  The Scorpion has been excellent for both defensive and offensive matters being able to fire of armor-piercing arrows at a long range. It is also very maneuverable.

Manu Ballista

The Manu Ballista (Manus = Hand) was a hand-held ballista, like an ancient Crossbow. The difference between medieval crossbows and the manu Ballista is of course the torsion mechanics with ropes, in which crossbows, collects the energy in the bow-arm. 


A fixed share of the Roman infantry has been the use of Auxillia archers. These are likely displayed in Parthian uniform, since these archers were in high demand with the Romans. The archers could make rain of arrows that can be compared with later use of the machine gun. It was not very accurate, but fast and effective against larger groups of enemies.



Hatra Ballista




Manu Ballista