First he completed a tortoise with a battering-ram, an indescribable object, and rolled it up to the eastern side of the city. And merely to look at it was a fearsome sight, for it was built in the following manner. They made a small shed, fashioning it in the shape of a parallelogram, put wheels under it, and covered its sides, both above and laterally, with ox-hides sewn together, and thus, as Homer would say, they made the roof and the walls of tile machine ‘of seven bull’s-hides,’ and then hung the battering-rams inside. When the machine was ready, he drove it up to the wall by means of a large number of men pushing it along from inside with poles and bringing it close to the walls of Dyrrachium. When it seemed near enough and at an appropriate distance, they took off the wheels, and fixed the machine firmly on all sides with wooden pegs, so that the roof might not be shaken to pieces by the blows. Afterwards some very strong men on either side of the ram pushed it violently against the wall with regular co-ordinated movement.

The men would push forward the ram violently with a single movement and the ram thus brought up against the wall shattered it, then it rebounded, and returning made a second shattering. And this it did several times as it was swung several times in either direction, and did not cease making holes in the wall. The engineers of old who invented this thing near Gadira [*=Cadiz] probably named it a ‘ram ‘ by taking the metaphor from our rams who exercise themselves by butting at each other. But the inhabitants laughed at this futile battering of the wall by the barbarians and at the men working the ram, and at their ineffective siege, and they threw the gates open and bade them come in, for they utterly despised the blows made by the ram. “For,” said they, “the ram will never make such a large opening by its battering, as the one this gate presents.”

The governor Alexius

Consequently this work was shown to be futile owing to the bravery of the inhabitants and the confidence of the governor Alexius, the Emperor’s nephew; and the enemy themselves relaxed and abandoned the siege as far as this part was concerned. For the bravery of the inhabitants and their opening the gates to the barbarians and shewing them a bold face had made cowards of them and they abandoned that machine. So the work round the battering-ram stood still. None the less, fire was thrown down from above on to this engine which now stood idle and immovable for the aforesaid reasons, and converted it into ashes. Desisting from this, the Frankish crowd turned its thoughts to another more terrible machine which was placed against the north wall opposite the ducal residence, called the Proetorium.

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