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The  Threskourion

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Slingers

A Thracian slinger, by Daniella CarlssonThe poorest troops in an ancient army fought as slingers.  They probably had the usual beard, and woreStone thrower from Trajan's column a fox-skin cap and pattern-edged tunic.  Most would not have had shields or even footwear. The sling would be their only armament, though some may have had a dagger as side-arm.  If a shield was carried, it would be in the form of a piece of animal skin, or a wicker pelta. Thracian slingers were not often used.  I have found only two references to Thracian slingers, and no pictures of them.   Apparently the different tribes specialised in different troop­types; some tribes wouldn't have had any archers or slingers in their armies at all.  "Polyaenus (III.9.62) tells how Iphicrates, campaigning in Thrace, was harassed by Odrysian archers and slingers; he discouraged them by placing bound Odrysian prisoners in his front ranks, which persuaded their compatriots to cease fire!" 

Appian, The Civil Wars, II, VIII, 49 (Pompey's preparations for his fight against Julius Caesar in Greece, 49 BC)

He [Pompey] had auxiliaries also from Ionia, Macedonia, Peloponnesus, and Boeotia, Cretan archers, Thracian slingers, and Pontic javelin-throwers.

 

There is a great colour picture of a Greek slinger at http://jagor.srce.hr/husar/

 

At left is a Thracian slinger, a reconstruction by Daniella Carlsson.  The smaller slinger is by Angus Mcbride, from the Osprey book Rome´s enemies 4 - Spanish armies and depicts a Balearic slinger.

 

Slinger from Trajan's columnLeft and above right:  Left: a slinger, and above right, a stone thrower,  from Trajan's Column, p 109 Roman Army: Wars of the Empire, by Graham Sumner

You can see a colour picture of: a Greek slinger, in the Osprey Men-At-Arms series book "The Greek and Persian Wars" by Jack Cassin-Scott.

slingercoin.jpg (14877 bytes)Left: Reverse of a silver stater of Aspendos in Pamphylia, 4th-3rd Century BC,  Evgeni Paunov & Dimitar Y. Dimitrov, New Data on the Use of War Sling in Thrace, in Archaeolgia Bulgarica 3/2000, p 47, Fig. 2.

 

 

Some discussion from the DBM mailing list:

: jafd26@aol.com

Subject: "The Sling as a Weapon", again

Salutations, gentlemen,

'Twasn't till I stared at my first cuppa this Sunday morning that I realized the important info in Korfmann's article was for the sculptors and painters, not the rule writers.

The technique for slinging: Stand with your left shoulder (assuming you're right-handed) to the enemy. Holding your hand at shoulder level, whirl the sling _clockwise_ (from _your_ point of view), in a _vertical_ plane, on which is the target, and release 'at 6 or 7 or 8 o'clock', so the pellet is traveling horizontally, or upwards at an angle.

In other words, think 'softball pitcher', not 'discus thrower' or 'baseball pitcher'. This technique eliminates the 'deflection' problem for the slinger, and means all he has to worry about is releasing at the point that will give the optimum _range_. And, since a standing man is taller than he is broad, the slinger thus give himself more margin for error. "DUH", yours truly says, "Why didn't I thinka that before !?!"

Mr. Desmond here contemplates his collection of light infantry, in two scales, and wonders if 'twill be possible to bend their arms into correct position without mass breakage... and decides to leave well enough alone...

Yours, John

 

From: Jeff Zorn <jrz3@cornell.edu>

Subject: Re: "The Sling as a Weapon", again

Howdy,

My personal experiments with slinging both rocks ant tennis balls confirms that the vertical swing is far and away the easiest for the beginner to master. It is very easy to lob stones this way. The primary benefit of the horizontal (round-the-head) swing is that you can use a longer sling, and thus build up more velocity. This does require much more practice to get the stone going the right away. I wouldn't want to stand anywhere in the vicinity of a beginner trying the horizontal swing.

Jeff Zorn

From: jafd26@aol.com

Subject: "The Sling as a Weapon"

 

Salutations, gentlefolk,

Went to the library yesterday and dug up the October 1973 _Scientific American_, with the article "The Sling as a Weapon", by Manfred Korfmann of the German Archaeological Institute of Istanbul.

Was a bit disappointed - there wasn't much hard data therein. To summarize it:

The Turkish sheperds, whom he asked for a demonstration, could sling a random sample of stones an average of 200 meters.

Initial velocity of a slung projectile is about 60 miles per hour.

The longer the sling, the greater the velocity and range. Baleric slingers carried 3 slings - one long for long range shooting, one short for short range, one in-between.

Diodorus reports that the Baleric slingers fighting for the Carthaginians at the battle of Eknomos used stones weighing 330 grams, by a conservative conversion of 'mina'. This would be about the size of a tennis ball.

David Robinson's excavations at Olynthos found lead sling pellets weighing between 18 and 35 grams. Those identifiable as cast by Philip's attacking Macedonians averaged fractionally heavier than those of the defenders.

There was also a very good drawing of the Nineveh relief with the 'Assyrian

armored slingers'

Korfmann also notes that there was (as of 73) no evidence that any culture, before 1000 BC, made use of both the bow and the sling - was either one or the other.

Might also note that the cover of the August '73 issue pictured the latest tech advance - a 4096 bit MOS ROM chip.

Yours, John Desmond - jafd26@aol.com

Left: Balearic slingers, by Angus McBride, from the Osprey book

From: Nigel Tallis <nigel@akkade.demon.co.uk>

Subject: Re: "The Sling as a Weapon"

In article <b0.c14bc4a.272c4894@aol.com>, jafd26@aol.com writes

>

>Salutations, gentlefolk,

>

>Went to the library yesterday and dug up the October 1973 _Scientific

>American_, with the article "The Sling as a Weapon", by Manfred Korfmann of

>the German Archaeological Institute of Istanbul.

>

>Was a bit disappointed - there wasn't much hard data therein. To summarize

>it:

>

It used to be quoted a lot in the 70s.

>The Turkish sheperds, whom he asked for a demonstration, could sling a random

>sample of stones an average of 200 meters.

Though this is like basing bow performance only with light flight arrows, of course.

>

>Diodorus reports that the Baleric slingers fighting for the Carthaginians at

>the battle of Eknomos used stones weighing 330 grams, by a conservative

>conversion of 'mina'. This would be about the size of a tennis ball.

The Balearics were Punic colonies - it's no surprise the heavy shot they're using is the same style as that used by the Assyrians from at least the C9th BC (not that this has been noted much). The Assyrians used this shot for siege work as far as I can tell. Somewhat bizarrely, I think this also likely to be the same style of shot that out ranged Cretan _archers_ in the Anabasis, but not the Greeks' improvised slingers - if I remember correctly.

>

>David Robinson's excavations at Olynthos found lead sling pellets weighing

>between 18 and 35 grams. Those identifiable as cast by Philip's attacking

>Macedonians averaged fractionally heavier than those of the defenders.

>

>There was also a very good drawing of the Nineveh relief with the 'Assyrian

>armored slingers'

>

>Korfmann also notes that there was (as of 73) no evidence that any culture,

>before 1000 BC, made use of both the bow and the sling - was either one or

>the other.

>

Hmm, this says much about the state of some branches of scholarship in the 70s. At this time you'd also still find statements that, for example, the Sumerians didn't use the bow in warfare - a view put forward in the 20s based on very limited evidence. Translations of texts attesting to the Sumerian use of both bow and sling in warfare, from at least the early 3rd millennium BC (and probably long before), had been available from the 1950s.

>

>Might also note that the cover of the August '73 issue pictured the latest

>tech advance - a 4096 bit MOS ROM chip.

>

is this the Babylonian one? :)

Regards

--

Nigel Tallis

 

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This page last updated on Monday, 07 January 2002 by Christopher Webber thracian@pnc.com.au

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