Ship with movable bow ram

Ship with movable bow ram

Ship with movable bow ram

Inv. 9405
Interpretation by Luigi Tursini, 1953

“This instrument needs to have its scythe go from the bottom upward, when released. Ships with scythes ought to appear in this manner, that is, without mast or sail, and with a great quantity of oars, so that it can be fast without sails, because the sail, the mast, and the cords would impede the managing of the great scythe. And this instrument is called the Scorpion, because of its similarity, and because it does damage by means of the tail.”

This is one of the two models of ships with movable bow rams recalling roman vessels, which had rams to hook enemy ships for close distance battling. The scythe-form ram is mounted on a rotatable platform controlled by cords and toothed wheels. Leonardo compared the velocity with which the great scythe fell upon the enemy ship to that of a scorpion tail, therefore naming the craft “scorpio”. The rowers were protected by tall shields, called mantelets, and animal skins sheltering them from enemy fire falling from above.

The model is based on the drawing:

  • Codex Ashburnham 2037 f. 8 r. (1487-1492)
    Paris, Institut de France