Segments in this Video

Introduction: The Claw (00:47)


During a battle in 213 BC, 100 Roman warships were destroyed by a Sicilian mechanism lifting them out of the water, and sinking them. How the weapon was built, and operated is unknown.

Replica Project (05:23)

The historic Roman battle was fought in Syracuse, inventor Archimedes' home. Structural Engineer Jo da Silva attempts recreation of The Claw. Rope and pulley expert Brian Austen helps her rig a system intended to haul a massive beam to the top of a tower.

Inventor and Project Setbacks (04:02)

Archimedes discovered the Law of Buoyancy; he designed The Claw to defend Syracuse from Roman invasion. The boat procured for the replica to sink is more than five tons heavier than da Silva anticipated; the rocker is constructed of weaker wood than her design required.

Conflict History (03:28)

Rome wanted to control Sicily, a Greek island during 213 BC, and strategically located in the Mediterranean. Syracuse was caught in a struggle between neighboring powers, switching alliances to Carthage, and encouraging Roman invasion.

Project Adjustments (02:45)

Da Silva has reengineered her replica designs, and believes it will function. She orders rocker fortification. Her team pulls the beam into hoisting position with ropes and rollers.

Protected City and Replica Progress (04:07)

Syracuse was well defended against Roman invasion; a massive fortress housed a honeycomb of tunnels. Da Silva has prepared the cradle for the modified rocker; she fits the components.

Project Advancements (04:39)

Da Silva's replica designs use Archimedes' Law of the Lever. She and Austen prepare to lift the beam onto the tower; laborers gently hoist it into the landing, lining it exactly with the guiderails.

Repelling Enemies and Replica Preparation (05:49)

Rome sent General Marcellu to invade Syracuse; the troops were bombarded by weapons designed by Archimedes. Plutarch described their fear of The Claw, triggering a prolonged siege. Da Silva and Austen fit the lever with an anchor chain, readying the beam to be lifted into final position.

Replica Trial and Error (06:03)

The beam is pulled into final position, pivoting on the rocker; a steel pin is hammered through to secure it. The anchor is launched, the lever is angled; the pulley system is failing and the tower support has cracked. Da Silva adds additional weight at its front for balance.

Replica Functionality Test (09:16)

Rorres and da Silva argue over Claw designs. The boat is moved into place and the anchor dropped onto it without impact; they tie it onto the vessel. The craft's hull is lifted out of the water, but is lowered back when the rocker cracks.

Replica Success and Archimedes' Death (02:10)

Da Silva and Rorres explain how the replica was successful in spite of failing to sink the boat. The Claw kept Roman ships at bay, but inspired a two year siege against Syracuse; the final assault was a massacre, wherein the famous mathematician was killed.

Credits: The Claw (00:48)

Credits: The Claw

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Secrets Of The Ancients: The Claw

Part of the Series : Secrets Of The Ancients
DVD (Chaptered) Price: $169.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $254.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



In 213 BC, the Romans sent a large force to capture the strategically vital Greek city state of Syracuse in Sicily. The siege was to go down in history because this mighty force was stopped in its tracks almost single-handedly by one man—Archimedes.

Length: 50 minutes

Item#: BVL185534

ISBN: 978-1-64867-002-2

Copyright date: ©1999

Closed Captioned

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