In 215 B.C. a Roman fleet sailed against the city of Syracuse in Sicily.
The Romans expected an easy conquest as the Syracusans were not noted for their military prowess. What they did not take into account was the military genius of syracuse's most famous citizen, the scientist, Archimedes.
Archimedes designed war machines that had never been seen before. Great catapults hurled massive boulders at the approaching ships. Other ships were lifted clean out of the water by giant mechanical claws operated from the shore. The Romans retreated in terror and confusion and regrouped at what they thought was a safe distance from the city. But Archimedes did not let them alone even then. It is said that he used giant concave mirrors to focus sunlight on the sails of the ships and set some of them ablaze.
The Romans, however, were a tenacious lot. They waited for an opportunity to sneak into the city, and one day when they learnt that the Syracusans were celebrating a popular feast and that their sentries were drunk, they quietly slipped into the city and captured it.
Archimedes was slain by a Roman soldier, according to one account, as he was working out a mathematical problem.
The Roman general Marcellus was grieved when he learnt of the death of the scientist whom he held in high esteem. Archimedes was buried with full honours and his tomb was inscribed with a design showing the ratio between the volume of a sphere and a cylinder, one of his geometrical discoveries.