Two Chariots Equipped with Fearsome Rotating Scythes

Leonardo’s Studies on Scythed Chariots

Studi di carri d'assalto muniti di falci, c. 1485 (penna e inchiostro bruno acquerellato con tracce di punta metallica su carta) (1485 circa) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)Musei Reali

“This chariot is pulled by four coursers. In the space from one point to another of the scythes, arm eight is the biggest. The two coursers that are at the front do not have a rider so they can better support the scythes in front of them.”.

This beautiful drawing, created by Leonardo around 1485, appears to evoke the assault weapons described by Leonardo in one of his famous letters to Ludovico il Moro.

The two assault chariots, equipped with fearsome rotating scythes, represent a war device that was already used in antiquity.

Both horse and rider are portrayed with ardent agility.

The macabre details of the dead soldiers surrounded by stumps of broken limbs give the drawing a visionary and dramatic touch.

Leonardo often revisited the idea of a scythed chariot. In fact, it can be found in many of his drawings.

Testimonies from the time teach us that, in addition to their strengths, these fearsome assault weapons had many weaknesses.

These scythed chariots had different designs and they were often no less harmful to friends than to enemies. And this is how the captains of the armies, believing that they would disturb their enemies’ battalions, ended up creating fear and damage amongst their own with them. […] The Romans used iron caltrops against them, which impeded the horses who fell to the ground in fear and left the chariots powerless.

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