Human ingenuity has a way of triumphing over basic logic, and weapons design is one area where impractical ideas and designs have actually worked out.
A recent Quora thread posed the question of “what are some of the most ingenious weapons throughout history?” The answers span a wide spectrum of inventiveness, while providing insights into some of the truly remarkable — seemingly batty — ways humans have waged war.
We’ve highlighted some of the more ridiculous examples of human ingenuity below.
1. The Claw of Archimedes
The Claw of Archimedes was a defensive weapon built by the legendary mathematician to defend the city of Syracuse, in modern-day Sicily, against a naval assault.
There is debate as to exactly how the claw functioned, but it was thought to be a sort of crane equipped with a grappling hook that could partially lift attacking ships out of the water.
The claw would then drop the ships, causing them to capsize. The claw saw action during the Second Punic War, and successfully defended the city against a Roman attack.
2. Snake Bombs
In 190 BC, the Carthaginian general Hannibal won a massive surprise victory against King Eumenes II of Pergamon. Although vastly outnumbered, Hannibal had an ingenious strategy. Short on other weapons, Hannibal filled clay pots full of venomous snakes.
During the proceeding naval battle, Hannibal’s forces fired hundreds of clay pots filled of the snakes against Pergamon’s navy. Between the snakes and Hannibal’s fighters, his army scored a resounding victory.
3. The Bouncing Bomb
The bouncing bomb was a munition designed to bounce across the surface of the water before sinking and exploding in a manner similar to a depth charge. The bomb was invented to hit targets that could not be reached by normal bombing or by torpedoes, like the foundations of dams that had been protected with torpedo nets.
The bombs were used by the British during World War Two to target German dams.
4. The Spear-Thrower
Spear-throwers are one of history’s earliest instances of truly ingenious weapon design. The tool is remarkably simple, consisting of nothing more than a shaft and a spur that supports a projectile. A fighter holds the spear-thrower, and carries out a throw.
The projectile is then launched from the lever with greater velocity, since the spear-thrower and the throwing arm function together as a lever, providing greater range and penetrating ability.
The spear-thrower was invented by multiple groups throughout the world.
5. The Turtle Ship
Turtle ships were a type of naval vessel used by the Korean navy between the 15th and 19th centuries. The ships had closed tops of spiked iron that deflected arrow fire and discouraged enemies from boarding the ship. Each ship was also equipped with at least five cannons, and portholes for arrows or muskets.
The most recognizeable part of the ship was a dragon-shaped head on the bow, which was used to launch cannon fire or flames at enemy ships.
6. Greek Fire
Greek fire was a sort of proto-napalm used by the Byzantines between the 7th and 10th centuries. It was a closely guarded state secret of the Byzantines, and the exact formula for the weapon has been lost.
The Byzantines sprayed fire from nozzles attached to their ships, giving the empire an unparalleled advantage in naval combat. The fire was particularly effective, and would even float across the top of the water while remaining alight.
The Tachanka was a cart or wagon which had been outfitted with a heavy machine gun in the back and reached peak use World War I and the proceeding Russian Civil War.
The cart was pulled by two to four horses, making it one of the first automated and highly mobile pieces of artillery. Since the machine gun faced backwards, the weapon was also used during raids and retreats to lay down cover fire on pursuing enemies.
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