The scythed chariot is potentially one of the most lethal battlefield weapons and has ancient origins, though Leonardo noted their propensity to damage friend as readily as foe. The drawing for these war machines dates from his first years in Milan.
In Renaissance times, war was the order of the day and war machines were at the centre of interest not only for their practical use but also from a cultural point of view, with the rediscovery of inventions from classical times.
In Leonardo’s machine rotating blades are mounted horizontally on to spiked wheels to prevent the enemy from approaching. One of the wheels has rungs and transmits rotary motion to the main cage-shaped gear. A team of horses pulls the chariot against the enemy.
Leonardo presented projects such as this to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro, “the Moor”. In addition to the machines, the drawing also shows the mutilated corpses of the enemies in order to make the project much more appealing.