This section is from the book "A Library Of Wonders And Curiosities Found In Nature And Art, Science And Literature", by I. Platt. Also available from Amazon: A library of wonders and curiosities.
It is to Hiero that Syracuse was indebted for those amazing machines of war, which the Syra-cusans made use of when besieged by the Romans. The public buildings, such as palaces, temples, arsenals, etc. which were erected in Syracuse, by his order, and under the direction of Archimedes, were the greatest ornaments of that stately metropolis. He caused also an infinite number of ships to be built, for the exportation of corn, in which the whole riches of the island consisted. We are told of a galley built by his order, which was looked upon as one of the wonders of that age. Archimedes, who was overseer of the work, spent a whole year in finishing it, Hiero daily animating the workmen with his presence. This ship had twenty benches of oars, three spacious apartments, and all the conveniences of a large palace. The floors of the middle apartment were all inlaid, and represented in various colours the stories of Homer's Iliad. The ceilings, windows, and all other parts, were finished with wonderful art, and embellished with all kinds of ornaments. In the uppermost apartment there was a spacious gymnasium, or place of exercise, and walks, with gardens, and plants of all kinds, disposed in wonderful order. Pipes, some of hardened clay, and others of lead, conveyed water all round to refresh them. But the finest of the apartments was that of Venus: the floors were inlaid with agates, and other precious stones; the inside was lined with cypress-wood; and the windows were adorned with ivory, paintings, and small statues. In this apartment there was a library, a bath with three great coppers, and a bathing vessel made of one single stone, of various colours, containing two hundred and fifty quarts. It was supplied with water from a great reservoir at the head of the ship, which held a hundred thousand quarts. The vessel was adorned on all sides with fine paintings, and had eight towers of equal dimensions, two at the head, two at the stern, and four in the middle. Round these towers were parapets, from whence stones might be discharged against the enemy's vessels when they approached. Each tower was constantly guarded by four young men completely armed, and two archers. To the side of the vessel was fastened an engine, made by Archimedes, which. threw a stone of three hundred pounds weight, and an arrow eighteen feet in length, the distance of a stadium, or a hundred and twenty-five feet. Though the hold of this vessel was exceedingly deep, a single man could soon clear it of water, with a machine invented for that purpose by Archimedes.
The story of this magnificent vessel was celebrated in poetic numbers by an Athenian poet, for which he was rewarded by Hiero, who understood the value of verse, with a thousand medimni, that is, six thousand bushels of wheat, which he caused to be carried to the Pyraeus, or port of Athens. Hiero afterwards made a present of this great vessel to Ptolemy, (probably Philadephus,) king of Egypt, and sent it to Alexandria. As there was at that time a great famine in Egypt, good king Hiero sent along with it several other ships of lesb burden, with three hundred thousand quarters of corn, ten thousand great earthen jars of salt fish, twenty thousand quintals of salt meat, and an immense quantity of other provisions