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H 245 x W 174 mm

254 pages

161 figures (colour throughout)

Published May 2024

Archaeopress Archaeology


Paperback: 9781803277837

Digital: 9781803277844

DOI 10.32028/9781803277837

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Roman; Ancient Rome; Imperial Army; Weaponry; Ranged Weapons; Catapults; Ballista

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Archaeopress Roman Archaeology 114

Roman Imperial Artillery

Outranging the Enemies of the Empire

By Alan Wilkins

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Fully revised and expanded for a new Third Edition, this book traces the Greek origins of torsion catapults, describes the machines used from the time of Sulla and Caesar, the Roman improvements in their design and power, and their importance in the defence of the Roman Empire.






Weights and measures


Greek origins

The menace of the new weapon

The bolt-shooter: accuracy, range and effects

Reconstructing the Roman bolt-shooter    

The new design: the metal frame arch strut cheiroballistra/manuballista

Deciphering the manuscripts: Vitruvius’ ballista

The stone missiles: range and effects

Masada AD 73-74

Qasr Ibrim: artillery in defence. Inscribed stone shot

Artillery in action in the field: Arrian’s battle plan

Burnswark Roman camps and native hillfort, Dumfriesshire

The last stone-throwers

The Hatra stone-thrower and the inward-swinging arms theory


The Roman achievement

Future search and research

The Roman origin of the mediaeval revolving-nut crossbow release

Review of 2021 TV film on Burnswark Hill, ‘Massacre on Hadrian’s Wall

Sources and references to artillery

About the Author

Alan Wilkins studied Classics at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and read the subject at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, specialising in ancient history and archaeology under Professors Jocelyn Toynbee and A. G. Woodhead. He spent several years excavating on Roman military and civilian sites in Britain, and was a field assistant to Sir Ian Richmond for 17 years. He lectured on Greek and Roman Civilisation for Liverpool University’s Extra-Mural Department, and was one of the pioneers of the JACT evidence-based teaching of Greek and Roman history. After 30 years teaching Classics at Woodbridge School, Merchant Taylors School, Crosby and Annan Academy, he turned to the subject of Greek and Roman artillery, following the tragic early death of his friend Dr Eric Marsden. He has attempted to maintain the momentum of Eric’s research into the subject. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.


'Alan Wilkins is the internatonal authority on Roman artillery. The successful expansion of the Roman state was due to the prowess of its army. Its deployment of artillery was hugely important in battles and in sieges. In this, the third, expanded edition of his important account of Roman artillery Alan Wilkins brings together evidence from the whole of the empire to offer a detailed description of these weapons and their use. A particular feature is his analysis of their use at Burnswark Hill in south-west Scotland.' – Professor David J. Breeze

'What comes through consistently is the author's personal commitment, his distinctive contribution to the development of the subject, his mastery of all the technical details, and his undimmed enthusiasm.' – Professor Lawrence Keppie (2019), Scottish Archaeology Journal