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General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
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Message started by Thearos on Feb 6th, 2013 at 9:48am

Title: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 6th, 2013 at 9:48am
L. Rawlings, "Alternative Agonies: Hoplite Martial and Combat Experiences beyond the Phalanx", in H. van Wees (ed), War and Violence n Ancient Greece (2000), 233-60, at 240 fig. 1

This is a vase found at Delos. It's from Corinth. It can be dated, stylistically, to ca. 620 BC. It shows four hoplites (heavy infantry). The guy on the left has taken off his helmet, propped up his shield, and is about to sling at the hoplites fighting in the centre !

Evidence that hoplite fighting in the early period was a bit looser than we sometimes think ? (though it could be a myth) And, ost strikingly, and image of a sling in the hands of a heavy infantryman, whose equipment itself marks him as wellt-o-do at the least.

The sling is realistic: long, war-sling length; the man seems to be tensing it before loading and shooting.

Great find by Louis Rawlings.
Delos-slinger.jpg (46 KB | )

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Bill Skinner on Feb 6th, 2013 at 10:31am
So, slingers may not have been the light troops, recruited just prior to the battle from local shepards?  That actually makes sense, they would have been the guys throwing rocks, and have very little archeological proof, while the well to do hoplites would have probably been the ones to throw the lead glandes, the more expensive ammunition.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 6th, 2013 at 12:08pm
The lead bullets appear ca. 400 BC, well attested into the C1st. By that period, it probably is more of a special ammo for special troops. As you say, usually light troops are not very well regarded. WHy this hoplite has chosen to sit it out and take potshots with a sling needs thought...

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by David Morningstar on Feb 6th, 2013 at 1:00pm

In Virgils Aeneid, Mezentius lays aside his spear and uses a sling to get a kill:

stridentem fundam positis Mezentius hastis
ipse ter adducta circum caput egit habena
et media aduersi liquefacto tempora plumbo
diffidit ac multa porrectum extendit harena

Mezentius now laid by his spear, and took his whistling sling,
And whirled it thrice about his head at length of tugging string,
And with the flight of molten lead his midmost forehead clave,
And to the deep abundant sand his outstretched body gave.

So that is a mythic example of a high ranking warrior having mastery of the
sling and doing a tactical weapon switch in combat.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Fundibularius on Feb 7th, 2013 at 2:03am
Very interesting find!

One reason why he took off his helmet may be that the crest certainly is an obstacle to an overhead throw. Another one, he probably had a better field of vision without the helmet on.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 7th, 2013 at 4:32am
That must be right !

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 7th, 2013 at 4:33am
BTW Rawlings teaches in Cardiff. Your part of the world still ?

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by wanderer on Feb 7th, 2013 at 6:33am
This alabastron was mentioned in Finney's thesis (p.104) via the Rawlings reference, but the image was not reproduced there.

FWIW Finney viewed the written evidence of the low status of distance weapons as outweighing the interpretation of the image as showing a hoplite.

It does look rather convincing, though.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 7th, 2013 at 6:38am
The alabastron's surface is very damaged, judging by the 1928 photograph. The drawing may be a bit optimistic. But maybe not: the detail of the sling is really very good. Finney's argument seems a-priori to me.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by wanderer on Feb 7th, 2013 at 6:43am
I realise my statement was rather ambiguous. I agree with you, Thearos.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 7th, 2013 at 7:36am
I got that ("it" = Rawlings' interpretation) -- I was just chiming in.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Fundibularius on Feb 8th, 2013 at 3:29am

Thearos wrote on Feb 7th, 2013 at 4:33am:
BTW Rawlings teaches in Cardiff. Your part of the world still ?


No, we're back in Germania Inferior after two years among the Silures and Ordovices  ;)

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by woodssj on Feb 8th, 2013 at 9:25pm
It would seem just about everybody used slings during sieges and defensive actions. Not liking a weapon and not knowing how to use it are two very different things.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on Feb 9th, 2013 at 9:39am
I agree-- it's a culture where people just know how to throw things-- stones, javelins, slingstones. It comes naturally.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by SchlrFtrRkMystc on May 31st, 2013 at 2:15am
I've mentioned elsewhere that Plato himself is said to recommend the sling as a common hobby due to excercise, but also I imagine a useful skill to have martially speaking both in terms of defense and offense in many situations, sieges included. Vegetius in De Rey Militari also recommends every soldier be proficient in it's use... which seems to have been part of roman basic training... for the above mentioned situations.

I have also heard it said that when Xenophon needed lead slingers to outrange the harassing archers and slingers of the persians he recruited them from his Hoplite ranks... those from the regions most known for their slinging prowess. Which begs the question... did they keep their hoplite status but just slung as well, did they sling while in hoplite gear, or did they drop all the hoplite stuff and just become a sort of sling only unit?

I'm excited to see it in artistic depiction, both vase and verse, with Hoplites though... that's quite an interesting find. Any more examples of this sort of activity in Greek Culture?

I am forever going on about how slinging should be a universal sport in more historical cultures and that every soldier should have his spear, shield, and sidearm (ax, club, sword, etc.) AND slings... cause now you have a well rounded troop with a strong ranged option that can be employed with his shield at little additional cost... I know this was the case for many Celtic, Germanic, Israelite, and other middle eastern cultures... if anyone has more examples of this I'd love to hear about them.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by David Morningstar on May 31st, 2013 at 5:14am

Xenophon had some hoplites from Rhodes, which was a major centre of slinging skill. They will have joined up as hoplites for greater pay and glory, but they were able to convert to slingers when the need arose.

I would have left off the armour etc with the baggage train and gone as light as possible to facilitate a rapid exit once the main body of the 10,000 had successfully escaped. The whole point of using slingers in this engagement was to outrange the enemy archers, so getting hit should not be on the agenda.


Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Bill Skinner on May 31st, 2013 at 9:00am
If you don't hit them, you don't hurt them.  After the first volleys with no effect, the attackers would ignore the slingers and close with the main body.      

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by David Morningstar on May 31st, 2013 at 11:07am

Which is why he was specifically picking Rhodians, rather than taking 200 at random.

Title: Re: Slinger on a Greek vase, ca. 620 BCE
Post by Thearos on May 31st, 2013 at 11:38am
Slingers are attested in the Boiotian army say ca. 250-180 BCE (e.g. SEG 3.354)-- as part of the modern army levied by the Boiotian federation (serving alongside archers-- the division of the Koroneians won, once, in all cateogires, including slingers, at the contests of the Pamboiotia).

Slinging also sometimes appears as part of the contests in the gymnasion.

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