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The Age of TitansThe Rise and Fall of the Great Hellenistic Navies$
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William Murray

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780195388640

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388640.001.0001

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Philo the Byzantine and the Requirements of Naval Siege Warfare

Philo the Byzantine and the Requirements of Naval Siege Warfare

Chapter:
(p.129) 4 Philo the Byzantine and the Requirements of Naval Siege Warfare
Source:
The Age of Titans
Author(s):

William M. Murray

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195388640.003.0004

Between the 240s and the 220s BC, Philo Byzantius (“the Byzantine”) submitted a detailed report to his patron, a general named Ariston, explaining exactly how to attack and defend a Hellenistic city. This text describes in detail the constituent elements of a naval siege unit; it also explains, from the point of view of the commander, how such a force can be used to attack a coastal city; it describes the best defense against such attacks; and finally, it tells the attacker how to meet a relief force arriving by sea and how to pursue a fleeing enemy. Big ships are used to break through harbor barriers, to crush enemy ships, and to ram sections of the city wall by the sea. Defenders employ kleithra or chain barriers supported by floats, build pontoon barriers or zeugmata, use incendiary missiles, and target the marines of the attacker with catapult fire. Catapults are used by both sides and are placed on various kinds of watercraft and towers, built at the harbor entrance. The text, written during or just after the height of the big ship phenomenon, provides a clear view of the strategic goals for which big ships were constructed.

Keywords:   catapult, Philo, siege, counter-siege, kleithra, zeugma, Byzantius

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