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Sure, Leonardo da Vinci created some great art or whatever, and some cool inventions that make life easier. We also found out he was a weapons developer and he designed some badass military devices.

Then we took a closer look at those designs and realized Leonardo's a lot less artist and a whole lot more Darth Vader.

9Underwater Warfare

"And if it should happen that the engagement was at sea, I have plans for constructing many engines most suitable either for attack or defense, and ships which can resist the fire of all the heaviest cannon, and powder and smoke."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo's Design:

Yeah, right there is everything you need to know about how Leonardo da Vinci approached military design. That's a fucking ancient submarine holding a gigantic cartoon knife. And Leonardo is known for the freaking Mona Lisa? Look at that thing!

But what good is a submersible ship-cleaver without a SEAL team to rig charges?


Oh...

That's right. Leonardo designed his own SEAL team.

Why it Would Have Worked:

The Crusades turned city-states like Venice and Genoa into superpowers thanks to the usefulness of their mighty navies. If anybody was going to stand a chance against these two powers, they needed men like Leonardo to sink their fleets swiftly and silently. Underwater warfare would have turned every drop of water in the Mediterranean into a war zone that no ship would be safe in unless they had pledged allegiance to your kingdom. Your fleet would have been as feared as Poseidon himself.


Seriously, could this possibly be any more pimp?

As for the scuba gear, it was specifically designed for "sneak attacks on enemy ships from underwater." Just the loss of a few enemy ships while in dock would have been enough for every navy on the planet to fear you.


Like this, only with more explosions.

The gear itself was incredibly complex and even included a pouch for the SEALs to piss in. The plus-side: Much like modern SEAL units, urine keeps you warm in cold waters. The downside: None. The competition: None. The possibilities: Endless. With Venice stormed by your SEAL team and Genoa scared into submission, you would be the undisputed ruler of the Mediterranean.


8A Robot Army

"Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past, for human events ever resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who have been, and ever will be, animated by the same passions and thus they must necessarily have the same results."
- Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

As Cracked has examined earlier, many "modern" technologies are actually way older than you might think. Take the robot: invented by the forever badass Hero of Alexandria, and perfected as a killing-machine by Leonardo da Vinci during humanity's rendezvous with antiquity.

Leonardo's Design:


A decoy worthy of Total Recall... until it's set for "murder death kill."


Pictured: "murder death kill."

Why it Would Have Worked:

Italy's armies were as shitty in the Renaissance as they were during World War II, and nobody knew this better than Niccolo Machiavelli of the Florentine militia. Throughout his classics texts The Discourses and The Prince, he cites countless examples about how a New Roman Empire was thwarted due to self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the foot. Italy's problems were twofold: one, a unified Italy still didn't exist, and two, Italy's dukes and princes outsourced too much of their military to Swiss mercenaries. Not only was this an enormous drain to so many kingdoms' economies, but many mercenaries happened to double-cross their employers for an even larger profit by skipping town. In short, Italy needed a local army built from the ground-up on reliability.


Veni, vidi, Vinci.

Leonardo's robots may have been a far cry from later Skynet models, but Jesus Christ... did he have his mind in the right place. It seems that Leonardo was able to effortlessly combine the profound workings of the human body with his prolific mechanical genius. Not only could this have been used to create some of the most intricate (and deadly) machines on the planet, but Leonardo would have known exactly what parts of the body he wanted them to attack.


The science behind the "Pull it out!" scene.

But even if Leonardo's robots were simply used as decoys (like the Mongols), practice shows that it would have been a better investment than the mercenaries Niccolo Machiavelli warned Italians not to trust. With Italy's enormous wealth and mutually-shared danger, men like Machiavelli might have found the droids they were looking for in the pages of Leonardo's notebooks.

7The Cluster Bomb

"I also have plans for making a cannon, very convenient and easy of transport, with which to hurl small stones in the manner almost of hail, causing great terror to the enemy from their smoke, and great loss and confusion."
- Leonardo da Vinci

"Cluster bombs can kill a whole ton of shit at once."
-Anyone who's ever seen a cluster bomb in action.

Leonardo's Design:


He named the guns "Great Vengeance" and "Furious Anger."

Why it Would Have Worked:

The Hundred Years' War saw the return of huge armies of infantry onto European battlefields for the first time since antiquity. Since the largest of these were found in Spain, France, and the Holy Roman Empire (due to their population), the divided city-states of Italy simply could not shore up the numbers for defense.


One man can only do so much.

With such lopsided odds working against the Italians, more practical weapons than syphilis were needed to cripple their enemies. What was needed was a device that could annihilate entire armies before they even came close to the front lines, and Leonardo's cluster bombs had the range and splash damage to accomplish just that. As long as you provided your bombard crew with enough of Leonardo's ammo, you could dictate the fate of entire armies like the Gods of Olympus.


How Leonardo da Vinci would have taken Helm's Deep.

6The Evil Lair

"When a place is besieged I know how to cut off water from the trenches, and how to construct an infinite number of bridges, battering rams, scaling ladders, and other instruments which have to do with the same enterprise... I have plans for destroying every fortress or other stronghold unless it has been founded upon rock."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Among Sun Tzu's many observations in The Art of War, there is "invincibility lies in the defense, and the possibility of victory in the attack." While as timeless as a tall glass of Ecto Cooler with vodka (we call it a 'Ghostbuster'), Leonardo put an interesting twist on it by removing the whole "possibility of victory" for the attacker part. When he designed a fortress, he had invincibility in mind.

Leonardo's design:


All it needs is a weather machine, and some dragons.


Wait...


WTF?

Why it Would Have Worked:

Since Leonardo was born one year before Sultan Mehmed II captured Constantinople in 1453, he spent most of his life living through one big "shit just got real" moment in Renaissance warfare. Mehmed's cannons were big enough to besiege a city from over one mile away, and the loss of Constantinople--considered the last, living relic of Rome--made every kingdom in Christian Europe reach for their rosaries. The threat of the Muslims was back.

Since Turkish cannons had just made medieval castles obsolete, engineers like Leonardo were employed to soup up defenses. The fortress he envisioned in his Codex Atlanticus was strong enough to withstand any weapon from the period: artillery, siege-ladders and whatever black magic the local White Wizard might conjure.


Ditto for Saruman's Uruk-hai.

In short, you had a fortress that was more reliable and forward-thinking than anything offered by Ford, scary as hell against any backdrop and so impenetrable that Leonardo himself could not capture it if he wanted to... which is why he included a secret passage into the beast. You know, just in case. Also, because every evil lair has a secret passage.

5The Super-Scythed Chariot

"I can supply an infinite number of different engines of attack and defense." - Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo's Design:


The Ferrari Armageddon.

When it came to breeding warhorses for battle, Leonardo mated the ancient concept of a scythed chariot with Lord Humungus from Mad Max 2. The result was an eight-legged, two-wheeled monstrosity that would have unleashed a fucking war crime on any Renaissance battlefield. Leonardo's design came in two models: the "shin-replacement," and the "fucking lawnmower from Dead Alive".

Why it Would Have Worked:

The Italians had two priorities when it came to Renaissance warfare: winning battles, and looking good while they did it. Can you guess which of the two was given the higher priority? Hint: It involved having really large balls (and no, we're not talking about bravery).


The Renaissance equivalence of a wheelie.

While there remains no substitute for an uncut Italian stallion when it comes to leaving all the sisters at the local nunnery with their bosoms heaving (as demonstrated in Boccaccio's totally awesome Il Decameron), the age of the knight was on its way out throughout the Renaissance. While handy for picking up belladonnas like your sister, warhorses were prone to injury, made easy targets and (much like Tweek) easily spooked. By the High Renaissance, chivalry came to a horrific end at the Battle of Ravenna, and large squads of infantry armed with pikes and arquebuses had replaced them on the battlefield.


The Renaissance equivalence of a clusterfuck.

Leonardo's super-scythed chariot was the perfect solution to this dilemma. It used fear as an offensive and defensive weapon, could cut a path through entire columns of infantry, and all without sacrificing the ego of riding a big-balled animal into battle. The only downside Leonardo could bring himself to admit: they "often... wreck as much havoc on friends as on foes." However, since very few Italian kingdoms were friends with each other, this could have also been taken as "put whatever allies you don't trust as close to this monster as possible." And as for your dark knights, you'd better believe whoever drove these monstrosities would be up to their armpits in annihilation... and the heaving bosoms of Italy's finest handmaidens once the carnage was over.


The Renaissance rules.

4Solar Power

"He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo's Design:

Now, when Leonardo said "star," this is what he meant:

Problem was, you couldn't exactly kill people with that. But with some know-how, and some planning...

...we get Leonardo the warlord.


Syracuse, 214 BC

Why it Would Have Worked:

That is a solar laser. Because much like Archimedes, the Chinese and the Machines from The Matrix, Leonardo da Vinci knew that the Sun was too abundant a resource to leave untapped. Fossil fuels like trees were limited, and gave off billowing smoke that gave away positions. What Leonardo did was tinker with the existing technology of "burning mirrors" to find other uses for them, like MacGyver.

While working for the Vatican, Leonardo correctly predicted that these mirrors could focus energy on a large scale. They could boil water and even be used as a never-ending resource for industry. More importantly, they could straight burn shit. Leonardo came up with solar power. Or at least, the Death Star.


It seriously works just like this.

3Flying Machines

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo's Design:


Make an entrance like Batman.


Eye in the sky.

And in case there were any crap-ups...


The robo-pilot survives.

Why it Would Have Worked:

Flight had fascinated Leonardo for most of his life, but would it ever prove its usefulness on the battlefield? Short answer: Yes.

Although most of Leonardo's flying machines would have likely crashed in real life, it was probably due to the fact that many of them were not tested. Nevertheless, even before a juicy government contract to iron out its defects, Leonardo's imagination alone was good enough for some of his gliders. Paint some dragon scales on it, and you've got a flying monster feeding you information about enemy movements, shooting fireworks and again... scaring the living fuck out of everyone on the battlefield.


Enter the dragon.

2The Armored Tank

"I can make armored cars, safe and unassailable, which will enter the close ranks of the enemy with their artillery, and no company of soldiers is so great that they will not break through them."
- Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo's Design:


If the Renaissance was a video game, this would be the end boss.

...until you destroyed it to discover that Leonardo wasn't really inside it.


Just another robot.

Why it Would Have Worked:

As cannons became smaller without sacrificing power, they also became easier to move on the battlefield. But since artillery crews were particular vulnerable to attack, Leonardo's plan was to protect them with the same tried and true methods that protected battering-ram crews for centuries. Only difference is that this siege-engine was deadly at 360 degrees, and wouldn't be seen again until WWI.


This picture is one second away from being NSFW.

You may notice that there is no space in the specs for an animal to power the craft, which makes about as much sense as designing a tank without tracks. However, this may have been Leonardo's plan all along. Much like his automobile, this carriage was horseless.


But can it kill people?

While Leonardo's tank does suffer from some serious flaws, the case has recently been made that the plans were deliberately sabotaged just in case a working model fell into the wrong hands. Some might argue that this proves that Leonardo da Vinci was, despite his career as a military engineer, a pacifist, but they're missing the point: Leonardo and Leonardo alone had the world's only working blueprints... in his head. Now tell us: Is that pacifist, or supervillain?


If it flew, it would be a fucking UFO.


"That's a bingo!"

1The Machine Gun

"This is the worst device, in all the years/ of the inventiveness of humankind/ which e'er imagined was by evil mind."
- Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso

Leonardo's Design:


And Ariosto was moaning about guns with only one barrel.

And yes, Leonardo designed plenty of ammo for the monster.


Full metal jacket.

Why it Would Have Worked:

Guns are useful on the battlefield; they kill people. However, Renaissance arquebuses were one hell of a pain in the ass for numerous reasons, the worst of them being how difficult they were to reload. What you basically had was a hand-cannon being loaded by a one-man crew in the middle of a battlefield, and with just your brains for defense. Oh, and for extra fun, the barrels had to cool before you did anything to avoid exploding. Leonardo's machine gun was designed with all these issues in mind, which is why it allowed its barrels to cool, be reloaded and fire all at the same time.


What the future looked like in the 15th century.

So, basically what we're saying is it's a damned good thing Leonardo had the art career to keep him busy.

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