Linked to Zombie perpetual machines

zombie carriage

This carriage was devised by Vitrivius as a way to make good use of the Zombies discovered in Roman territory.


How many zombies would be needed to allow this carriage to transport 1 ton of supplies at 15km/h ? Knowing that zombies cannot be killed by ordinary means, how hard would it be to transform this into war machines carrying onagers/ballistas etc, into battlefield ?

  • Consider them to be human-like, with characteristic zombie gait, only differing in that they dont need to eat, they eat out of taste for human flesh, not out of nutrition. Do not consider normal metabolism. They can very well run continously, accumulating lactic acid without pain. There are no thermodynamic limits for them, besides that they can do whatever a normal human can do physically. They feel no pain and have an IQ between that of a cockroach and of an anemone. In other words they are purely reactive. They seem to not have immune systems, so they rot under anything that consumes flesh. They only stop moving when they are out of muscle tissue. The difference in speed is due to activity in cerebellum, its a matter of remembering how to run. The smart variety still remeber how to do trivial tasks like opening doors. The dumb ones can only run towards a target. If they lack a leg they will be unable to stand up, walk or run.
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    $\begingroup$ It would work until one of them noticed the even bigger piece(s) of flesh in or on the carriage ;) $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Mar 24 '15 at 18:09
  • $\begingroup$ echo of @DustinJackson - this sounds like quite the world you are creating for a story. I'm a little concerned on the ancient tanks thread (terrain reasons, pre-road europe is not vehicle friendly), but am otherwise quite interested with where you are going with this. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 24 '15 at 18:36
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    $\begingroup$ Hold on a sec... 15 kph is equivalent to a 6:30 mile time... even when I was in gym class I never got below 8:00, so the question is, are these the shuffling, night-of-the-living-dead-type zombies, or world-war-z-type fast zombies? $\endgroup$ – 2012rcampion Mar 24 '15 at 19:30
  • $\begingroup$ @Twelfth: pre-road europe is not vehicle friendly You do know that the extraordinarily high quality of the roads they built is one of the things the ancient Romans were most famous for? $\endgroup$ – Mason Wheeler Mar 24 '15 at 21:16
  • $\begingroup$ @MasonWheeler - , Germanic and Celtic people were not so famous for their road making abilities, hence why I would refer to the land prior to Romans building roads as 'pre-road Europe' $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 24 '15 at 21:45

Twenty-four Zombies

I think rolling resistance is going to be the main resistance force here. I don't know what the coefficient is for a wooden carriage on Roman roads, but I think the worst case would be something like car tires on sand. So, for one short ton load the rolling resistance would be about 2670 newtons. There will also be some minor wind resistance, perhaps 200 newtons. An average human can comfortably tow at about 250 newtons, so we'll assume the same for a zombie. The sprinting speed while pulling that load is unknown. I'll assume it's half. That means you'll need a team of 24 zombies to pull this cart. Might want to add a few more depending on how well they're harnessed.

They're better than horses

Zombies don't spook as easily as horses, they are very well summed up when described as single-minded. They can't be killed as easily and zombies are often literally used as fodder. If you put some blinders on them to keep them focused on the meat-lead, they may be fairly effective as wartime beasts of burden.

Assumptions: Flat ground, zero wind, zero cart axle friction, zombies have human strength, zombies can sprint, pulling while sprinting strength is halved, rolling resistance coefficient of 0.3 and constant, entire load is one ton (including cart), zombies won't chew the straps, zombies are possible, and other minor axiomatic assumptions.

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    $\begingroup$ Ha, never considered zombie blinders to keep them on track, +1 for that. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 24 '15 at 19:15
  • $\begingroup$ You could always release a few on the unexpectedness enemy camp and let the following panic and exponential spread sort things out for you. The only problem after that would be: how to get rid of the zombie horde? $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Mar 24 '15 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ @DustinJackson I think that is the essence of Twelfth's answer to the second part of the question. $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 24 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ Single-minded? You mean, no minded? $\endgroup$ – corsiKa Mar 24 '15 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ @corsiKa I do not. A single thing compels them at a time, for instance, "brains..." $\endgroup$ – Samuel Mar 24 '15 at 21:53

Focus on this part:

Knowing that zombies cannot be killed by ordinary means, how hard would it be to transform this into war machines carrying onagers/ballistras etc, into battlefield ?

Couple points to consider:

  1. Zombies don't follow commands very well...when/how do they get the order to stop? And once they are stopped, whats preventing them from seeing tasty humans trying to operate the siege equipment they were carrying around and trying to go after them? It'd kinda suck to set up your catapult only to have the zombies carrying it start coming after you and pushing around the catapult you just setup.

  2. Buffet! Human corpses are about to litter a battlefield and you've got the equivalent to a zombie buffet sitting infront of them...are they going to be good zombies and stop where the equipment is needed, or are they going to try to run off into the middle of the battlefield. If you are baiting them into moving with human flesh, whats stopping them from reaching down and pigging out on the corpses that the siege equipment they are carrying need to move by?

  3. Human morale. Zombies and undead use are never human friendly. Your Roman crews are going to need to get used to seeing huge chunks of human flesh dangling as bait and rotting infront of them every where they go, which likely will cause some disease...rotting human flesh is not fun to see as a human. Being known as the zombie using army and the 'evil' view that can contain doesn't help morale either.

  4. Elephant issue. Carthage made heavy use of elephants in their army, but on more than one occasion the elephants were spooked and control of them were lost, resulting in a rampaging elephant destroying it's allied forces. What happens when an arillery return fire destroys the catapult these zombies are carrying? What happens when a zombie team has it's restraints broke in the heat of battle? The last thing you want is zombies wandering around the ranks of your army eating as they see fit.

I guess as a conclusion...the free labor seems attractive, but it comes with a lot of risks from not being able to control them when the artillery they are pulling around needs to stop and be used, to them getting loose and rampaging on your army during the middle of battle.

If you really want to be creative...whats stopping an army from loading up zombies into the catapults and using them as ammo in a siege? Dead cows were often launched to spread disease...I'd imagine a zombie being hurled over a wall and into a town would be that much more effective (and potentially a bit funny to watch fly)

  • $\begingroup$ Good idea about using zombies as weapons $\endgroup$ – Jorge Aldo Mar 24 '15 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ I guess a downside...if the attack succeeds, you are no longer sieging a town with a garrison, but are now sieging a zombie infested town. Not sure if thats a happy scenario...you might get the population of the town attempting to flee to you for help. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 24 '15 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ To expand the blinders idea into the construction and overcome these obstacles, imagine a steam-roller where all the zombies are inside the roller part. a small hatch can be opened to initially place the meat the zombies are chasing, with a tiny gap down the center of the roller to allow the line that holds the meat. Steering is accomplished by Romans outside the machine. Stopping is done by cutting the line or taking it back out. The more secure/sturdy the roller is, the harder it is to break, but the zombies escaping and turning on the Romans would still be a threat. $\endgroup$ – DoubleDouble Mar 24 '15 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ You don't need to use a dead human as zombie bait, this is ancient Rome, so use a slave or two. The zombies would probably react better to live bait anyway. $\endgroup$ – Monty Wild Mar 24 '15 at 22:17

1 ton of supplies at 15km/h?

We can safely assume that a regular person can pull between 75 and 100 lb, but I lack the time or skill to do the math required to figure out how many it would take to pull at 15 mph. You should consider that the zombies will at most probably be walking at a normal rate of 3.1 mph, making it difficult to reach these speeds. I would also have to factor in the rate of decay of the dead (do they decay?).

Simply divide 2000 ponds by 75 and you get.....26 average zombie people to move it. Add a dozen more and you have it going at a decent speed. Also keep in mind that the harness will eventually rip through the decaying flesh.

how hard would it be to transform this into war machines carrying onagers/ballistas etc, into battlefield?

Having them lug crap around would be inefficient. They would abandon the small parcel of meat being used at bait as soon as one of your guys came within eye sight of it. If they were in eyesight of the enemy army they would keep going and try to charge the enemy army, bringing your weapons with them.

Instead, simply withdraw your living army and release them into the enemy camp in large numbers. They will scatter and flee when they realize your weapon is the undead.


I do not believe this is a viable means of transport. Blinders would keep zombies from seeing all the tasty morsels around but zombies have a human sense of some kind, it wouldn't work. If you are going to make a zombie transport I think you want something along the lines of a hamster cage except that it's fully enclosed other than to the front. The only path to the morsels the zombie has is forward--which actually just turns the hamster cage.

You also need your zombies fully confined or you're going to have total chaos on the battlefield.


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