Harpax

  • Ancient Rome
  • 1 min

By Crusader1307

The Harpe was a Roman Naval weapon that first saw use in the late 2nd Century BC. Roman Naval Warships had limited Ship to Ship fighting capabilities. The primary use of Archers  (often using Flamed Tips), was the main offensive/defensive tactic. This was followed by the use of The Ram. These (as we have seen), were iron Prows that were attached to the front of a Ship (below the waterline). The Ram would be used to punch a hole in the Enemy Ship. Although both tactics ultimately resulted in the loss of the Enemy Ship, this was not the goal  (capture was).

 

The development of The Harpax (by Roman General Agrippa around 295 BC). Using the existing Ballista (Catapult), these land based Siege weapons were bolted  (secured) to the deck of the Ship. Often several Ballista were installed (Fore and Aft). Using The Harpax Device (a Grapnel), this was a 12-foot Pole made of iron. Iron rings were attached to the rear shaft of the device. To these, were a series of ropes. These in turn, were affixed to the Ballista's pullies. The front of the shafts had an additional 6-foot iron bar installed. A series of extensions were placed  (which flanged outwards and back). The tips were barbed.

 

Firing The Harpax into an Enemy Ship, the Barbs would dig into the wooden decking of the Enemy Ship. The Ballista Crew would then slowly retract the ropes via the pullies, in essence pulling the Enemy vessel into theirs. Once alongside, Soldiers could then Board the Enemy Ship and fight (taking it as a Prize, intact). Very effective, The Harpax was used greatly in late Roman Naval Warfare, often in tandem with another Roman Boarding Device known as The Corvus.