Series 1 - Episode 2: Roman War Machine

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This week, Dick challenges the team to build a catapulta, one of the most formidable weapons in the Roman arsenal. The Romans spent centuries perfecting their design of this enormous bolt throwing siege engine. The team have three days. Once proceedings are underway, Dick explains the original machine and reveals, with the aid of CGI, how this impressive weapon changed history.

Meanwhile, disaster strikes. The team have spent hours coiling over 300metres of rope to create springs, but just as they complete the task the whole build is put in jeopardy. With no catapulta, their ingenious modernised bolts will have no chance to prove their worth. In taking on the Romans, has the team bitten off more than it can chew?

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Comments (34)

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  • the old gunner

    6 months ago

    the old gunner

    Big hair- no, I just hate historical inaccuracy. Our education system is bad enough, the Beeb don't need to make it worse. And I've been on enough TV challenge shows, thank you.

  • bighair

    6 months ago

    bighair

    Gosh, The Old Gunner is definately a little bit peeved they weren't involved in the show me thinks. Little bit sad on the negative comments I feel. It looked like it was the most amazingly fun job to be involved in. Think that is what the negative comments are about really.

  • This comment was removed by a moderator

  • Ekam K

    7 months ago

    Ekam K

    ALAN STEVE THE OLD GUNNER ROBERT HEATHER HARRISON... LOOL HEY :P

  • badacafalada

    7 months ago

    badacafalada

    yo this show is amazing cant wait till next epo so hoocked with this show #hooocked#yolo#amazing

  • frynzavn

    11 months ago

    frynzavn

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  • Phil

    11 months ago

    Phil

    I hope there is an audience for this great program in the UK. More more more!

  • Tony

    1 year ago

    Tony

    Alan, you'll always have a problem convincing people catapults actually fired bolts. It's become embedded in their minds due to Hollywood & Biblical references, David in particular. Catapult & ballista are basically generic terms same as Greek Peltast. Grammatically thrown down upon, but sometimes thrown directly at. The ammo only depended on the unit / equipment used. Must admit I miss the programme, but probably only appeals to a small niche audience. Would have loved 1 on what the Trojan horse really was, siege assault weapons are often overlooked when talking about innovations.

  • Alan Wilkins

    1 year ago

    Alan Wilkins

    Many of the above comments are incorrect or I'll informed. Catapulta is correct for a bolt-shooting catapult, ballista for a stone-thrower. Apart from the unsuccessful use of modern arms, the programme made a reasonably accurate copy of the metal-plated wood frame torsion catapult. There are a full set of dimensions in Vitruvius,also 2 sets of the iron cladding of the torsion frames have been found, plus now a complete frame, as I stated on the programme. DOWNLOAD the PDFs on the Roman Military Research Society website about both types of Roman catapult. Update your knowledge by reading Duncan Campbell's Greek and Roman Artillery or my Roman Artillery. After filming, the correct curved wooden arms were fitted and a 1.2m bolt shot to 319m, the second longest range achieved by a modern reconstruction.

  • walter luhan

    1 year ago

    walter luhan

    I want more episodes of this great show, please!

  • The Old Gunner

    1 year ago

    The Old Gunner

    We all want to see more; maybe there will be some historical acuracy and sound engineering eventually.

  • BlackRoof

    1 year ago

    BlackRoof

    THIS is the type of show to build a reputation with. Why are there only two? No more? ...or is someone in production screaming to get some more shows finished? They should be! Don't mess it up!

  • mike

    1 year ago

    mike

    If anyone is in doubt re the correct naming and design of these fab weapons they should try reading the book by sir Ralph payne Galway called the:CROSSBOW: aaa truly fantstic book.

  • Ben Graham

    1 year ago

    Ben Graham

    Could you please explain to me why,this excellent and exemplary, series has been canned by the big brains in channel 5? It is fantastic and the Byzantine flame boat appeared most incredible!!!

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  • andy cowley

    1 year ago

    andy cowley

    bring it back as it was great!!!!!

  • Steve

    1 year ago

    Steve

    What's happened to episode 3, has the series been pulled? It would be such a shame if it has been as i t was starting to get quite interesting....

  • Christine

    1 year ago

    Christine

    Do people reallise that they had only 3 days to build these machines, the machine in the first episode worked perfectly well, it was still a very interesting and entertaining programme, shame there are people who think they could so much better !!!!!

  • The Old Gunner

    1 year ago

    The Old Gunner

    I think of catapult for the single arm high angle thrower for rocks &C, not arrows, still with the torsion spring. The ballista as the two-arm crossbow like device, usually for bolts or arrows, but in some cases capable of throwing stones. However it is, everything in ths episode was shockingly bad. It you wanted to "Beat The Ancestors" with a Ballista, then a big inswinger might be fun to try- the old ones seem to be rather small. Is the sheer awfulness of the program the reaon for the lack of scheduling for further episodes ?

  • Slingshot

    1 year ago

    Slingshot

    Why not use high tensile steel for the catapulta bow? As steel is being used in the torsion box.!

  • Tony

    1 year ago

    Tony

    Alan has it right, it's all about torsion. The catapult was a high tensile siege or long range artillery weapon, it could be utilised to fire bolts at softer targets or stone at solid emplacements. The ballista was a close quarter artillery piece, but could fire both types of ammo. But didn't need such high tension, it finally gave way to mobility, a machine operable by hand. It's final form was actually it's first Greek one, a crossbow. Which causes so much confusion, people think it fires a bolt it's a ballista, fires a rock must be catapult. On the programme, just wish they'd say forget what we've learnt since. Try & beat them with what they knew & had, that would be interesting.

  • Alan

    1 year ago

    Alan

    Peter Connolly says that there were two types of mechanical missile thrower. Ballista: stone- thrower. Catapulta: arrow shooting. By the middle ages the terms seem to have been much more loosely applied and to have reversed The problem was the torsion. Looking at photographs of other reconstructions it is clear that the torsion is imparted after the throwing arm is inserted. The springs at top and bottom are both tightened in the same direction so that the arm is pressed forward against the outside edge of the box. Animal sinew would have been better as it has a natural springiness. But that would have involved too much effort and and smell! The use of modern steel was cheating as this would not have been available to the Romans. The Romans actually built catapulta capable of throwing 45kg stones as used at the siege of Jerusalem. Ultimately this was TV entertainment, not a serious historical study.

  • Tony

    1 year ago

    Tony

    To differentiate the catapult & ballista are the same, not dependant on ammo but trajectory. Both fired bolts or stones, the catapult threw it high, the ballista fired it on a straight flat trajectory.

  • The Old Gunner

    1 year ago

    The Old Gunner

    I agree with the comments about the catapulta- I thought this was a ballista variant, and the catapult the single arm job. However, I wasn't confident enough to have a go at that one, when there was so much else wrong.

  • steve o

    1 year ago

    steve o

    if they lowered`the angle they would got the`distance easy or raise the`back of the machine just angles really, this` sort of thing has been done before`, anybody rememeber scrapheap challenge , dick should , he was on it a few times

  • Heather Harrison

    1 year ago

    Heather Harrison

    I was disappointed on watching series 2 The Catapult. This in fact is The Balista. I would have thought that you would do your History.

  • Robert

    1 year ago

    Robert

    Where did you get the name catapulta from? What your engineers built in series two was clearly a ballista.

  • Robert

    1 year ago

    Robert

    Where did you get the name catapulta from? What your engineers built was clearly a balista.

  • Steve G

    1 year ago

    Steve G

    Indeed. I find it frustrating that the end build visually looks very little like the item at end of construction on the last build day. Not only the aforementioned major design change to the torsion box, but also that fact the whole thing was encased in a welded steel frame assembly. I would have like to hear more about the technical aspect from the team members instead of listening to Dicky's voice all the time. Shane because the team put a lot of effort and passion into the work they did.

  • the old gunner

    1 year ago

    the old gunner

    Despite the dreadful execution of the idea demonstrated in the first episode, as an archer and weapon Engineer, I had to watch this episode as well. Still the potential for good fun, still completely wasted. The design and execution were terrible. If only one actual Engineer had been associated with this programme! The catapults or Ballista is actually no trouble to build at all, and has been done many times.

  • Steve G

    1 year ago

    Steve G

    Nice work guys n gal it stayed in one part ;-) Are there any team members on here to give us a bit of background to the build ? I am curious if you finally tensioned the ropes from both the top and bottom tension cams after the arms were fitted to ensure that both side of the rope were tensioned equally.

  • Steve G

    1 year ago

    Steve G

    Ohhhhh what a surprise . . . . . . we have suddenly grown two semi-circle cut-outs either side or the torsion box to allow for more arm travel (just like the small demo model had earlier :-/ Well THAT is defo gonna help :-) Now waiting so see what happens lol Hmmmmm

  • Steve G

    1 year ago

    Steve G

    I am sooooo waiting to see how the hell they are going to fit two arms into the space they have left themselves in the torsion box :-o

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