Sylvius Nimrod, Profound Introduction to modern Artillery, 1660
Printed by Tilman Bucholtz, at the expense of Georg Schwänder, in Osnabrück, 1660
It is not any author who presents his guide to artillery here. Sylvius Nimrod (1622-1664) was the first Duke of Württemberg-Oels. He gained this position himself. As the second oldest son of a third oldest son of the Duke of Württemberg, he could expect neither land nor property. So he chose the then most promising career option. He became a soldier and, as a 16-year-old ensign, went to war.
What he describes in his “Vollkommene Unterweisung” (translates as “Perfect Instruction”), he had learned during the sieges of the 30 Years’ War. The artillery was used in every siege. The cannons and bombards were not only loaded with ordinary bullets, but put to the test to see what damage a projectile loaded with explosives, for instance, or a wreath of straw soaked with pitch and then lit, would cause. These bullets had devastating results. When they crossed the walls, they caused firestorms and ripped off the limbs of innocent people, making some bleed to death. With their outdated walls, the cities that had the misfortune to be laid siege on were sometimes helplessly exposed to a then cutting-edge warfare technology. That is why during and especially after the 30 Years’ War, the fortifications were strengthened and updated to the latest technology.
Therefore, it was the duty of every diligent mayor to inform himself about what heavy projectiles might be used during the fight. The citizens prepared their arsenals to stand up to the enemy armies themselves. They had learned that they could not rely on their princes. And so this book is not dedicated to a prince, but to the “honorable, very noble, cautious and wise lord mayors and counselors of the praiseworthy city of Amberg.” After what it had gone through in the 30 Years’ War, Amberg, which had become rich through iron ore mining, afforded a huge city fortification. With its 100 towers, it was one of the largest of its time, consisting of two parallel walls that were several kilometers long, with an additional moat in front of them.
With its technical accounts, Nimrod’s book still gives the modern reader a chill when he realizes from what the city walls used to protect the ordinary citizen. It is hardly surprising then that the city fathers spent a major part of their budget on sophisticated fortifications. There were far too many noblemen in early modern Europe who intended to gain land and money through war.
Some of them died. Some survived and became rich. Sylvius Nimrod belonged to the latter category. Shortly before the Peace of Westphalia, he managed to ascend to the ranks of the reigning dukes through marrying a wealthy heiress. So he himself became the first Duke of Württemberg-Oels and was able to establish a permanent and grand court. He employed the famous baroque poet Angelus Silesius as his court physician and the composer Matthäus Apelles von Löwenstein as his court music director.
To the people who died from his firebombs during the 30 Years’ War, however, this was surely no comfort.
Translated by Annika Backe