Illustration of Fantastical Cannon

Dublin Core


Illustration of Fantastical Cannon


This illustration of a fantastic and somewhat bizarre depiction of a cannon appears in a 1511 manuscript credited to Flavius Vegetius Renatus. Like this image and the image above, the manuscript is filled with several black and white illustrations of various scenes of war – many extremely imaginative and fanciful and showing technology that almost definitely did not exist at the time. This illustration of a cannon with eight heads all spouting from one base is an example of one.

The function of such a ‘cartoon’ can only be guessed at. This depiction of an incredibly advanced piece of military technology may have been an idealization of what military leaders hoped to create. Perhaps more accurately, it was created for pure entertainment. Like a lot of cartoons depicting wars made nowadays, it might simply have been a way for people to release themselves from the harshness of war through ridiculousness and humor. Either way, warfare was certainly a dominant feature in the daily lives of medieval men and women, with the sheer number of these types of fantastical illustrations highlighting how often this topic was engaged with. Furthermore, the fact that these are illustrations, and not crazy written stories, suggests that these images might have been intended to be shared with or enjoyed by a wide audience of many social classes.


Mei-Li Thompson


The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, University of Pennsylvania




Crazy cannon.JPG


Mei-Li Thompson, “Illustration of Fantastical Cannon,” War & Conquest in Medieval Europe, accessed April 2, 2020,