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Aspects of Roman Siegecraft

Aspects of Roman Siegecraft
Duncan B. Campbell


Department of Archaeology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UNITED KINGDOM.


The present work represents a re-assessment of Roman siegecraft, based on the twin foundations of a comprehensive collection of historical narratives, and a thoroughgoing discussion of the archaeological evidence. The historical material is presented chronologically, and analysed statistically in order to test various common assumptions, such as the supposed Roman predilection for blockade as the principal besieging strategy, and circumvallation as the principal tactic; the statistical findings are tabulated for ease of reference. This provides a context for the ensuing study of the archaeological material gathered and discussed under the three headings of encampments, circumvallations and embankments. The phenomenon of the embankment is subjected to particular scrutiny, in order to question the common acceptance of Napoléon's tripartite, timber-built design. Separate analyses of Roman artillery and siege-machinery round off the work, exposing several persistent fallacies concerning the operation and siting of stone-projecting catapults, and discussing the function of the different siege machines. Finally, amongst other myths, the recurring theme of decline in siegecraft is dismissed in the conclusion.