BATTERING RAM (Lat. aries), the earliest, simplest, and, until the improved usage of artillery, the most effective machine for de stroying stone walls and the ordinary defenses of fortified towns. Its primitive form was a huge beam of seasoned and tough wood, hoisted on the shoulders of men, who, running with it at speed, against the obstacle, wall, gate or palisade, made what impression they might against it. The ancients employed two different machines of this kind—the one suspended, and vibrating after the manner of a pendulum, and the other movable on rollers. The swinging ram resembled in magnitude and form the mast of a large vessel, suspended horizontally at its centre of gravity, by chains or cords, from a movable frame. Ligatures of waxed cord sur rotinded the beam at short intervals, and cords at the extremity, opposite to the head, served for the purpose of applying human force to give the oscillatory motion. The rolling ram was much the same as the above in its general construction, except that instead of a pendulous motion, it received only a motion of simple alternation, produced by the strength of men applied to cords passing over pulleys. This construction seems to have been first employed at the siege of Byzantium. These machines were often extremely ponderous. Appian de clares that, at the siege of Carthage, he saw two rams so colossal that 100 men were em ployed in working each. Vitruvius affirms that the beam was often from 100 to 120 feet in length; and Justus Lipsius describes some as 180 feet long, and two feet four inches in diameter, with an iron head weighing at least a ton and a half. In contrasting the effects of
the battering ram with those of the modern artillery, we must not judge of them merely by the measure of their respective momenta. Such a ram as one of those described by Lip sius would weigh more than 45,000 pounds, and its momentum, supposing its velocity be about two yards per second, would be nearly quadruple the momentum of a 40-pound ball moving with a velocity of 1,600 feet per second. But the operation of the two upon a wall would be very different. The ball would probably pene trate the opposing substance, and pursue its way for some distance; but the efficacy of the ram would depend almostly entirely upon duly apportioning its intervals of oscillation. At first it would produce no obvious effect upon the wall; but the judicious repetition of its blows would, in a short time, give motion to the wall itself. There would first be a barely perceptible tremor, then more extensive vibra tions; these being evident, the assailants would adjust the oscillations of the ram to that of the wall, till at length a large portion of it, par taking of the vibratory impulse, would, by a well-timed blow, fall to the earth at once. This recorded effect of the ram has nothing analo gous in the results of modern artillery.