Bohemund’s barbarians

The walls were flanked by towers standing up above it all around and rising as high as eleven feet, which were ascended by a spiral stair and strengthened by battlements. Such was the appearance and the defence of the city. The thickness of the walls was remarkable, in fact so great was its width that more than four horsemen could ride abreast on it quite safely. These few cursory words about the wall had to be said so that what I am going to relate now may be clear. The construction of this towering edifice, which Bohemund’s barbarians built like the tower of a shed, is difficult to describe and was fearful to look at, as men who saw it told me, not to speak of those whom the horrible monster approached. It was fashioned in this wise. A wooden tower was built on a square base and carried to such a height that it overtopped the towers of the city by five or six cubits.

The wooden tower had to be constructed in the wav described in order that by letting down the hanging drawbridge. the soldiers could run down easily to the tower-level of the city wall. And then they thought the natives would be continually pushed backwards, and unable to stand up against their violent onrush. And it really seems that the barbarians besieging Dyrrachium had a very good knowledge of the science of optics, for without that science they could not have measured the height of the walls; anyhow if they did not know optics, they understood the use of optical instruments. The tower was certainly terrible to look at, and when moving seemed still more terrible.

For its base was raised on a number of wheels, and, as it was levered along with crowbars by the soldiers inside, it caused amazement, as the source of its motion was invisible and it seemed to be moving of its own accord like some towering giant. It was completely covered in from top to base and divided into several floors, and all around were openings in the shape of loopholes through which arrows were shot. On the top floor stood high-spirited men, fully armed, with swords in their hands ready to stand on defence. When this terrific object drew near the wall, the men under Alexius, the military governor of the city of Dyrrachium, lost no time, but whilst Bohemund was building this machine outside the walls, to be an infallible captor of the city, they built a counter one inside.

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