Inflatable Ladder

With the end of antiquity, technological progress slowed to a crawl, and it is hardly surprising that a 10th-century Byzantine compiler charged with researching military technology which might be employed against the Arabs turned to books 800 or 900 years old to obtain ideas. That is the background to the celebrated Handbook of Siegecraft, Vat.gr.1605, which arrived online on February 22.

The great thing about this release is that there is a beautiful online edition by Denis Sullivan in PDF with an English translation, including a list of the images to explain them.

One of the handbook's most remarkable ideas faithfully transcribed from antiquity and perhaps never put into effect, was to use inflatable leather ladders to climb enemy walls. As a veteran battler with children's paddling pools (often frustrated as well by those silly little soft-plastic stoppers), I rather wonder who were the big-lunged persons who were supposed to inflate the ladders. The inflatable leather ladder is shown on fol 9v:
Also of interest is the flame-thrower on fol 36r, which is more of a Byzantine idea. The operator had to balance on top of a high tower and apparently had to be lightly clad because of the heat generated:

This codex, the anonymous author of which is given the sobriquet Heron of Byzantium, is a key source on first-millennium siegecraft, and can be compared to another Byzantine military manual, Vat.gr.1164, which has similar engines of war and was discussed on this blog a year ago.

In all, 32 manuscripts arrived online in the latest batch, most of them Greek. Here is my unofficial list:
  1. Barb.gr.14,
  2. Barb.gr.16, astronomy with moon phases
  3. Barb.gr.17, Emperor Maurice
  4. Barb.gr.22, Aristotle and Polybius
  5. Barb.gr.28, Julius Pollox, Onomasticon
  6. Barb.gr.41, Dorotheus of Gaza, Greek classics
  7. Barb.gr.43, Hesiod and Aratus Soleus. Pinakes
  8. Barb.gr.60,
  9. Barb.gr.64, Georgius Codinus
  10. Barb.gr.66,
  11. Barb.gr.123, Maximum Planudes, Epigrammata
  12. Barb.gr.235,
  13. Barb.gr.237, philosophers, extracts
  14. Borgh.205, Cyril of Alexandria, in Latin translation
  15. Ott.gr.150,
  16. Ott.gr.163,
  17. Ott.gr.185,
  18. Ott.gr.255,
  19. Pal.lat.910,
  20. Urb.gr.105,
  21. Vat.gr.354, A remarkable handbook to the gospels, with list and indices in canon format, discussed by Nordenfalk and Wallraff. Aland S.028  See Pinakes
  22. Vat.gr.462,Gregory Nazianz and others, Pinakes
  23. Vat.gr.749.pt.2, Septuagint Book of Job with catenae, made in the 9th century. Here are Job's three perfect daughters (fol 249v) as named only in the Septuagint, not the Hebrew text: He called the first Day, and the second Cassia and the third Horn of Amaltheia, and there were no more beautiful women under heaven than Job's daughters (LXX Job 42:17e).
  24. Vat.gr.756, Four Gospels
  25. Vat.gr.835, records of second Nicaean Council
  26. Vat.gr.1523, gospel lectionary
  27. Vat.gr.1605, Military Handbook by Heron of Byzantium, 11th-century copy (above)
  28. Vat.gr.1627, a 15th-century text of Homer's Odyssey, not illuminated
  29. Vat.gr.1947, Gregory Nazianz
  30. Vat.gr.2197, 9th century, Proclus Atheniensis etc
  31. Vat.gr.2200, 8th-9th century, theological texts
  32. Vat.lat.124, glossed gospels of Matthew and John
If you have corrections or additions, please use the comments box below. Follow me on Twitter (@JBPiggin) for news of more additions to Digita Vaticana. [This is Piggin's Unofficial List 40.]

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