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Archimedes' Weapons of War and Leonardo

  • D.L. Simms (a1)

Leonardo's fascination with Archimedes as well as with his mathematics is well known. There are three fairly extensive and eccentric comments in the surviving notebooks: on his military inventions; on his part in an Anglo-Spanish conflict and on his activities, death and burial at the siege of Syracuse. Reti has examined the first of the three, that about the Architronito or steam cannon, mainly considering the origin of the idea for the cannon and its attribution to Archimedes, but with comments on the later influence of Leonardo's ideas. Marshall Clagett has produced the most comprehensive attempt to try to identify Leonardo's sources for the third.

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1 de Toni N., ‘Saggio di onamastica Vinciana’, Raccolta Vinciana, 19301934, XIV, pp. 54117, pp. 6162, Spellings ‘Archimedes’ and ‘Archimenides’ recorded indifferently; The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, 2nd edn (ed. and tr. McCurdy E.), 2 vols., London, 1954,: de Toni's nos, 94–97 Codex Atlantico not given; editing inconsistent, ‘Archimenides’ sometimes left, sometimes ‘Archimedes’ substituted; all four references in the B. M. Arundel Ms. 263, 279v are given as ‘Archimedes’, ii, p. 526, but first two ‘Archimenide’ in original, [Reti L., ‘Il Mistero dell Architronito’, Raccolta Vinciana, 196x), 19, pp. 171183 177]. Reti ibid., pp. 171–183; Clagett Marshall, Archimedes in the Middle Ages, Philadelphia, 1978, ‘The fate of the Medieval Archimedes, 1300–1565’, pt. 3, iii, pp. 480–481.

2 I. Sakas, reported by Modiano Mario, Athens, 05 14, The Times, London, 15 05 1981; Marinoni A., ‘Leonardo's Writings’, in Leonardo the Scientist, London, 1980, pp. 7273.

3 de Vinci Lénard, Manuscript B de l'Institut de France, (transcrib. de Toni N., tr. into French, Authier F., intro., Corbeau A.), Grenoble, 1960, pp. 92, 94 (Italian), pp. 93, 95 (French) (Ms. B 33r), tr. based upon MacCurdy E., op. cit. (1), ii, pp. 176177, 1st and 3rd paras added.

4 Reti L., op. cit. (1), especially pp. 176–180, p. 181 (inspired by Valturius, Italian ed, of 1483), (Bourgeois first steam cannon, 1605), pp. 181–183 (Cardan et al.,); P. Duhem, Etude no. 6, ‘Lénard de Vinci, Cardan, et Bernard Pelissey’, in Etudes sur Leonard de Vinci, 3 vols, Paris, 1956, i, pp. 222223.

5 Op. cit. (3), p. 90, p. 91; my translation.

6 The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, 3rd edn (ed. and tr., Richter J. P.), 2 vols., London, 1970, p. 368, n. 15, p. 384, n. 8, 9, 10. Clagett M., op. cit. (1), pp. 13291341, p. 1340. (Petrarch's comments rested in part on Livy and Orosius).

7 Pedretti C., Leonardo: A study in Chronology and Style, London, 1973, p. 176 (quotations), 101 (Leda Ms.).

8 Solmi E., ‘Le Fonti dei manoscritti di Leonardo da Vinci’, Giornale storico delta Letteratura Italiana, Turin, 1908 and 1911, Supp. 10–11, pp. 143–146, 143, 143 footnote 2 (Schmidt W., ‘Leonardo da Vinci und Heron von Alexandria’, Bibliotheca Mathematica, 3rd series, 1902, 3, pp. 180187, 181); Hart I. B., The World of Leonardo da Vinci, London, 1961, p. 295; de Toni N., op. cit. (1), pp. 116117, (nos. 1031–1037).

9 Guerrini M., Il Museo Leonardiano di Vinci, Vinci, 1986, pp. 5455 (description is inaccurate; water falls into the heated gun barrel not on the burning coals); I. Sakas, op. cit., (2).

10 Landels J. G., Engineering in the Ancient World, London, 1978, p. 83.Briggs J., personal communication, (cannon of Petrarch's day and a little later were made of wrought iron staves held together by wrought iron bands).

11 Sakas I.., op. cit. (2); Simms D. L., The Times, London, 05 21, 1981; Simms D. L., ‘Archimedes and the Invention of Artillery and Gunpowder’, Technology and Culture, 1987, 28, pp. 6779.

12 Payne R., Leonardo, London, 1979, p. 66, 69.

13 Calvi G., ‘I manoscritti di Leonardo da Vinci’, Instituto Vinciana, (Roma), 6, Bologna, 1925, p. 79; Gibbs-Smith C. and Rees G., The Inventions of Leonardo da Vinci, London, 1978, reprinted, 1985, p. 47.

14 Dibner B., ‘Machines and Weaponry’, in Leonardo the Inventor, (eds Heydenreich L. H., Dibner B. and Reti L.) London, 1981, pp. 72123, 116.

15 Reti L., op.cit. (1), p. 175 (quoting Valturius R., De Re Militari, Verona, 1472, bk, 10, p. 261), p. 180.

16 Kemp M., The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man, London, 1981, p. 142 (I. 102v–103v), p. 143 (I. 128v); Reti L., ‘Leonardo’, in D.S.B., (ed. Gillespie C. G.), New York, 1973, viii, pp. 192–245, 209 (Codex Madrid, i, fol 60r); MacCurdy E., op. cit. (1), ii, pp. 192195 (I. 133 [85] v), p. 200 (Forster II 57r, 58r, 62r, 71r).

17 Reti L., ‘Leonardo the Technologist; the problem of prime movers’, in Leonardo da Vinci: Technologist, (eds Reti L. and Dibner B.), Norwalk, Connecticut, 1969, pp. 6396, 92 (Ms. E back cover; Codex Leiscester, fol. 10r, fol. 15r); White Lynn Jr., Medieval Technology and Social Change, Oxford, 1962, p. 92.

18 Needham J., ‘The pre-Natal history of the Steam Engine’, in Clerks and Craftsmen in China and the West, Cambridge, 1970, pp. 136202, 143, n. 2; Gille B., The Renaissance Engineers, (tr. unknown), London, 1966, p. 188; Gibbs-Smith C., op. cit. (13), p. 68.

19 The Codex Leicester by Leonardo da Vinci, (intro. Pedretti C.), London, 1980, pp. 1116, (date of experiments).

20 Reti L., op. cit. (17), p. 63; Sakas I., op. cit. (2); Reti L., op. cit. (1), pp. 181183; Duhem P., op. cit. (4), pp. 222223.

21 Richter J. P., op. cit. (6), ii, p. 374, note 1498; Pedretti C., Commentary on Richter, op. cit. (6), 2 vols., Oxford, 1977, ii, p. 374 (date); MacCurdy E., op cit. (1), ii, pp. 209210.

22 Richter J. P., op. cit. (6), ii, p. 374, note 1498, footnote 6; Clagett M., op. cit. (1), p. 480 and footnote.

23 The Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince, (ed. and tr. Barber R.), London, 1979, pp. 7475; Sir John Froissart's Chronicles, (tr. Johnes T.), 5 vols., Hafod, 1803, i, p. 383 (sea-battle of Sluys), ii, pp. 100–103 (no mention of weapon of fire at La Rochelle); p. 103 (grappling hooks), p. 103 footnote (Du Guesclin, Coll. Memoires Historiques—fireships used), i, p. 432; Tuchman Barbara W., The Distant Mirror, U.K. edn, London, 1979, pp. 264265 (crucial advantage); Murray [Murray K. E., ‘Shipping’, in Medieval England, (ed. Poole A. L.), Oxford, 1958, i, p. 183,] stated: ‘As early as 1190 northern long ships had discovered when operating against Saracens in the Mediterranean that it was hard to grapple with a dromon because the enemy could pour brimstone and burning pitch over their heads’.

24 MacCurdy E. op. cit. (1), ii, pp. 205210 (other descriptions of galleys and their operations); Richter J. P., op. cit. (6), ii, p. 230, n.1128 (Tr. 43a). and p. 222, n.1115 (B. N. 2037. 1b).

25 Livy Titus, Ab Urbe Condita, (tr. Moore F. G.), London, 1966, p. 461; Plutarch's Lives, Marcellus, (tr. Perrin B.), London, 1968, p. 487; Valturius R., op. cit. (15), p. 265.Dijksterhuis E. J., ‘Archimedes’,(tr. C. Dikshoorn), Acta historica scientarum naturalium et medicinalium, 1965, 12, 28; possibly in Fabricius J. A., Bibliotheca Graeca, Hamburg, 1716, ii, p. 551 (bk. 3, c. 22); ‘Hippias’, (tr. Vincentus Obsopeus), in Lucian, Opera, Frankfurt, 1543, pp. 250r–252r, (first published tr. into Latin), p. 251r (ref. to Archimedes). No refs to Archimedes in side col., summary (p. 250r) or index.

26 Italicus Silius, Italica, (tr. Duff K. D.), 2 vols., London, 1934, ii, p. 295 (14, 300–315). Schneider I., ‘Die Enstehung der Legende um die kriegstechnische Anwendung von Brennspiegeln bei Archimedes’, Technikgeschichte, 1969, 36, pp. 111.

27 Galen, De Temperamentis, ed. Helmreich O., Bibliotetheca Scriptorum Graecorum et Romanorum, (Stuttgart, 1969, 2nd edn) p. 93 (c. 3,2); Simms D. L., ‘Archimedes and the Burning Mirrors of Syracuse’, Technology and Culture, 1977, pp. 28, 124, 5 and 5 n, 21; Toni N., op. cit. (1), p. 79 (two refs to Galen in Leonardo's mss.); Pacioli Luca, De Viribus Quantitatis, p. 200v, Ms. 250, Library, University of Bologna, undated, no. 306 in Mazzatintti G., Catalogue of Italian Mss. in University Libraries, (Forli, 1910) 17, p. 68.

28 de Toni N., op. cit. (6), pp. 82/83 (Ms. 30r), pp. 89/90 (Ms. B 32r); MacCurdy E., op. cit. (5), ii, p. 174 (B 30v), 184, 184 footnote 5 (B. 50v). As this same confusion—Callimachus for Callinocus—was made by Delia Porta, [Porta G. B. Delia, Magia Naturalis, Naples, 1589, Natural Magick, (tr. unknown), London, 1658, p. 291] it strengthens the case made by eti [op. cit. (1), p. 183] that Delia Porta was familiar with parts of Leonardo's works.

29 Stow John, The Annales of England, London, 1605, p. 410; Barber, op. cit. (23), p. 75 (orations almost certainly Geoffrey le Baker's own). Johnes, op. cit. (23), p. 427 (Froissart gives Black Prince's speech as a general one).

30 Diodorus of Sicily, Universal History, (tr. Oldfather C.), London, 1961, iii, pp. 197198 (5, 37). First five Books, (tr. by Poggio), Bologna, 1472); Richter J. P., op. cit. (5), ii, p. 422, (Diodorus); Libri G., Histoire des Sciences Mathématiques en Italie, 2 vols., Paris, 1838, i, p. 208, n.5.

31 MacCurdy E., op. cit. (1), ii, p. 175; Reti L., op. cit. (1), pp. 176177 (original Italian); Pedretti C., op. cit. (1), ii, p. 371 (date).

32 Clagett M., op. cit. (1), pp. 480481, (medieval biographical accounts). Maximus Valerius, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri Novem, rescensit Carolus Kemp, Leipzig, 1888, p. 391, (bk, 8, cap, 6, ext. 5–10); Romae Antiquae Descriptio, (tr. Speed S.), London and Westminster, 1678, p. 399 (Marcellus was sensible that his victory was much delayed by his (Archimedes') engines); Plutarch, op. cit. (32), v. p. 487 (death) (19,3), p. 481 (tomb) (17,7).

33 Kemp M., op. cit. (16), p. 179

34 Livy, op. cit. (25), vi, p. 461, (death) (25, 31, 9–10).

35 Solmi E., op. cit. (8), p. 65, footnote 2 (Firmicus Maternus, 1497 ed.); Maternus J. Firmicus, Matheseos Bk, 7, (eds Kroll W. and Skutsch S.), 2 vols., Leipzig, 1913, ii, p. 148 (bk, 6, cap. 3, lines 23–27).

36 Cicero Marcus Tullius, Against Verres, (tr. Greenwood L. G. H.), London, 1936, ii, p. 441 (58, 131–32).

37 Cicero Marcus Tullius, Tusculanarum Disputationum, (tr. King J. E.), London, 1966, i, pp. 491493 (5, 23, 64–66); Richter J. P., op. cit. (5), ii, p. 370, footnote. Plutarch's Lives, Dion, tr. Perrin B., London, 1968, vi, p. 87 (sack of city) (61).

38 Clagett M., op. cit. (1), pp. 480481; Valturius, op. cit. (15) p. 265 (Plutarch); Pacioli L., De Divina Proportione, Venice, 1519, cap. 2, pp. 2v-r, Pliny, Historia Naturalis, (tr. Rackham H.), London, 1942, ii, pp. 589591 (bk. 7, cap. 37); ‘Archimedes also received striking testimony to his knowledge of geometry and mechanics from Marcus Marcellus, who at the capture of Syracuse forbade violence to be done to him only—had not the ignorance of a solider foiled the command,’; MacCurdy E., op. cit, (1), ii, p. 508 (owned Livy and Pliny); Pedretti C., op. cit. (6), ii, p. 357 (Alberti in Leonardo's library). Alberti L., Ten Books on Architecture, (ed. Rykwert J., tr. Leoni J.), London, 1955, bk. 8, cap. 4, p. 170; cf. Clagett M., op. cit. (1), iii, pt. 4, appendix 3, pp. 1336–1341 (Petrarch on Archimedes); Petrarch F., De Viris Illustribus, (ed. Martellotti G.), Florence, 1978, pp. 122123; Petrarch F., De Rerum Memorandum Libri, (ed. Billanovich G.), Florence, 1943, v, bk. 1, sect. 23 (Archimedes); Volaterranus Maffeius, Commentaria Urbana, Paris, 1511, bk. 14, fol. 89 (refers to Plutarch's Lives and Cicero on Archimedes' tomb).

39 Vasari G., Lives of the Artists, rev. edn (tr. with intro. and notes by Bull G.), London, 1965, 1981 (1st edn 1550, 2nd edn 1568), p. 28 (illustrious artist), p. 469 (knowledge of Alberti's book).

40 Martini Francesco di Giorgio, Trattato di architettura civile e militare, 3 vols., Turin, 1841, ii, pp. 129150, 129; Reti L., ‘Francesco di Giorgio Martini's Treatise on Engineering and its Plagiarists’, Technology and Culture, 4, 1963, pp. 287298, 287288.

41 Mumford L., Technics and Civilisation, London, 1934, p. 85; MacCurdy E., op. cit. (1), i, pp. 2425, ii, p. 204, p. 206; Parsons W. B., Engineers and Engineering in the Renaissance, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1939, reprinted 1967, p. 45, 48; Payne R., op. cit. (12), p. 186.

42 Kemp M., op. cit. (16), p. 177.

43 Winder R. B., ‘al-Jazari’, in The Genius of Arab Civilization, 2nd edn (ed. Hayes J. R.), Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1983, p. 216.

44 Kemp M., op. cit. (16), p. 179; Vasari G., op. cit. (39), p. 264 (quotaton from Petrarch).

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