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General >> Project Goliath - The History of The Sling >> Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
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Message started by TheArchaicPeltast on May 26th, 2018 at 6:39am

Title: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on May 26th, 2018 at 6:39am
I've been doing a lot of research on the Anabasis for a future project, and had been fixated on the section reguarding the Rhodian Slingers (Anabasis III.iii-iv).

I think the range and ability of the slingers have been mentioned quite a lot on the forum, but Xenophon does indeed talk about the making of these slings.
Specifically: "pay anyone who is willing to plait new ones" (Anab. III.iii.18)
The word used here for plait is πλέκω(pleko), which seems to specifically mean plait, rather than "fabricate" as some other translations have used. (I am no expert in Greek or ancient Greek, so any input here is appreciated)

He also mentions:
ηὑρίσκετο δὲ καὶ νεῦρα πολλὰ ἐν ταῖς κώμαις καὶ μόλυβδος, ὥστε χρῆσθαι εἰς τὰς σφενδόνας
"In the villages, furthermore, the Greeks found gut in abundance and lead for the use of their slingers." (Anab. III.iv.17)
While it is obvious what the lead was used for, it is not the case for the "gut".

The word used here is νευρά(neura).
There are several possible translations:
Some translations directly translate neura into bowstring, with the intention that they are used for the archers rather than the slingers. But a cursory look into the Greek suggests that the word used, neura, is different than νευρή(bowstring), or νεῦρον(sinew/tendon). But I haven't found a translation that directly translates neura to "gut". However, neura seems to also have been used in the context of stringed instruments, which we know used processed animal gut for strings.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=neu%3Dra&la=greek&can=neu%3Dra0&prior=kai\

Given that Xenophon is a military man, and that his records of rhodian sling making and performance is reasonably accurate, could we reconstruct rhodian slings and slinging ability?
I'm guessing the sling was a braided long sling made of either sinew or gut, and given it's ability with slinging lead, would've been a pouched sling?
Anyone have experience with such materials?
Gut can be surprisingly inexpensive:
http://nativeway.safewebshop.com/twisted_gut_hafting_9mm.html

Hopefully some of you found this helpful.
Looking forward towards your input!!! ;D

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Parmenion on May 26th, 2018 at 10:15am
In modern greek :
πλέκω(pleko) = braid,plait,knit
definitely not twist into rope

νεύρα =nerves (plural),νεῦρον(singular) , you see it in descriptions of instrument cords, bowstrings,cables,strings,tendon and other, it is a very general term . It could be gut or sinew, i've never seen a gut cord and how pliable/strong it is so I would say it's probably tendons.

I don't think there are enough details to reconstruct a sling of Xenophon's army.
Pouched sling or not? With what? Weaved pouch or leather? Length and thickness of sling cords? dimensions of pouch? Knots and loops? Treatment of the materials?
wouldn't every slinger/braider have his own preferred design?
I wonder if they had discovered any unconventional sling design like Y-sling/triangular pouch.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Bill Skinner on May 26th, 2018 at 11:36am
Look at the sling pouch on contemporary coins for an idea of what a pouch from that time could look like.

As far as gut, down here in the lower, really humid,  southeastern US, it was preferred by the Native Americans for bowstrings because unlike sinew, it didn't stretch once twisted into a cord.

As far as length, again, look at either the coins or the vases for an idea of length.  There are lots of representations of slingers. 

Although, my personal opinion is that the cord would be wrapped around the hand with a knot in the release end if they were using gut, it can be surprisingly narrow if you haven't had any experience with it.   

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on May 26th, 2018 at 10:56pm
Thanks Parmenion! Clarifies a lot of things with the Greek!
Given that gut was used as bowstring, I believe it could be strong enough for a sling, at least comparable to sinew. Like Mr. Skinner stated above!

johan wrote on May 26th, 2018 at 10:15am:
Pouched sling or not? With what? Weaved pouch or leather? Length and thickness of sling cords? dimensions of pouch? Knots and loops? Treatment of the materials?
wouldn't every slinger/braider have his own preferred design?
I wonder if they had discovered any unconventional sling design like Y-sling/triangular pouch.

I guess we could extrapolate?
Would a pouched sling be better at slinging lead bullets than a split pouch?
I'm assuming Xenophon meant braiding, so such a sling would at least be made of braided gut or sinew?
If several designs were made, and a few could reach the ranges Xenophon mentioned, we could have some strong candidates.

Quote:
As far as length, again, look at either the coins or the vases for an idea of length.  There are lots of representations of slingers.

Great Idea! just wished there was a database for images of Hellenic slingers...

Bill Skinner wrote on May 26th, 2018 at 11:36am:
Although, my personal opinion is that the cord would be wrapped around the hand with a knot in the release end if they were using gut, it can be surprisingly narrow if you haven't had any experience with it.   

I guess braiding the gut cords could make for a more substantial sling?
I wonder if the gut was plaited when wet or dry and whether that made a difference.
Hopefully a few of us have enough money, time, and experience to see which designs were more likely.
Darn, I should use this for a thesis  ;D


Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on May 27th, 2018 at 12:15am
Was thinking something like this?
https://web.archive.org/web/20120804011507/http://slinging.org:80/index.php?page=a-simple-braided-sling-in-20-steps---jeff-holt
With nylon substituted for gut or sinew?

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Parmenion on May 27th, 2018 at 4:45am

Quote:
πλέκω(pleko) = braid,plait,knit
definitely not twist into rope

sorry i was a little hasty.
to describe the construction of twisted rope in modern greek: τυλίγω=wrap and στρίβω=twist is what most would use but it would be very specific then searched the web how they describe it and saw some descriptions being more general which used "πλεκω" to describe "twist into rope".
so it's more general than i thought.


another idea for the materials.
sinew seems to be stretchy as bill skinner said. http://ballista.wikia.com/wiki/Case_study:_comparison_of_elasticity_of_sinew_and_nylon_cord ,http://ballista.wikia.com/wiki/Spring_cord_materials similar to nylon.

gut i have no idea, seems interesting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHD7-2j5sI

maybe they used both materials and different methods just what they found and what was easy to make.

if gut has little stretch then thin twisted gut cord(?) and since sinew is stretchy, thicker braided sinew? (to avoid twist of the cords which stretched while slinging)
and i would prefer a pouch for small projectiles.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on May 27th, 2018 at 6:30am

johan wrote on May 27th, 2018 at 4:45am:
maybe they used both materials and different methods just what they found and what was easy to make.

if gut has little stretch then thin twisted gut cord(?) and since sinew is stretchy, thicker braided sinew? (to avoid twist of the cords which stretched while slinging)
and i would prefer a pouch for small projectiles.

Great! A nice starting point! I think gut cord and sinew(at least the artificial stuff) is inexpensive enough to experiment with.
Definitely agree with the pouch especially when it comes to lead glandes.

It seems long slings were necessary for ranges of 200-400 meters. Am I right about this?

Sadly, my abysmal sling making abilities make me hesitant to waste materials.
If anyone out there is experienced in braiding/twisting sinew or gut cord and making long slings, I'd be happy to provide some of the materials.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Bill Skinner on May 27th, 2018 at 10:22am
Artificial sinew is wax coated, parallel strand nylon and it stretches like crazy if you attempt to make a bowstring out of it.  It used to be used to tie electrical wires into bundles or cables.

I would actually go with twisted gut or sinew, braided doesn't work so well, the fibers cut against each other.  And I have no idea what would happen to a mixed braid or twist of a stretch and non stretch but I don't think it will work all that well.  I know in bowstrings that the non stretch ends up doing all the work and you end up with a string that is only as strong as the non stretch strands.  And the non stretch strands tend to rub against the stretch strands and you end up with a string that eats itself.

Will artificial sinew twist up and make a good cord for a sling?  Not a clue.  I suspect that it will depend on how many strands the cord has in it, if you get enough and don't throw excessively heavy glands, like half a brick, you shouldn't have a problem with sane weight glands.  ;D

 

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on May 27th, 2018 at 3:00pm

Bill Skinner wrote on May 27th, 2018 at 10:22am:
Artificial sinew is wax coated, parallel strand nylon and it stretches like crazy if you attempt to make a bowstring out of it.  It used to be used to tie electrical wires into bundles or cables. 

Darn I gotta get some better bowstrings then...  ;D


Bill Skinner wrote on May 27th, 2018 at 10:22am:
I would actually go with twisted gut or sinew, braided doesn't work so well, the fibers cut against each other.

Interesting point, did not think of that. I assume the process would not be unlike making a bowstring.  :)

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Thearos on May 28th, 2018 at 10:31pm
I agree that "neura" must be sinews. Strabo says that the Baleares make slings of rushes, hair, or sinews.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/3E*.html

The verb πλέκω is, primarily, "braid" in ancient Greek-- with the proviso that the verb is in fact also used for rope-making

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dple%2Fkw


Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on May 29th, 2018 at 2:50pm

Thearos wrote on May 28th, 2018 at 10:31pm:
The verb πλέκω is, primarily, "braid" in ancient Greek-- with the proviso that the verb is in fact also used for rope-making

I wonder what would work better for a sling? I understand Bill wrote earlier:
Quote:
I would actually go with twisted gut or sinew, braided doesn't work so well, the fibers cut against each other.

I think it's possible that the Greeks repurposed materials, likely bowstrings, possibly instrument strings, or sinew lying around prepared for use by the locals

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Thearos on May 29th, 2018 at 10:15pm
I think it means to braid or to plait. They found sinews and braided slings.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by funditor on Jul 10th, 2018 at 3:42pm
Interesting Reconstruction theory, tried it out on the weekend. I used natural gut tennis strings, according to a test I found they should stand 20-30 kg. Leather Pouch diamond shape 12x5 cm, leather finger loop and Leather tab release. Really fast and silent sling. Around ten shots with around sixty gram weight. No string tore. One string got a nick in the beginning, which was a bit annoying when reloading, as the strings are quite stiff, but did not tear in this spot also. Achieved good distance, far more than 100m. Under the bottom line for this test - gut works as string :)

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by kicktheotter on Jul 10th, 2018 at 3:47pm
Could you post a picture? I'd be interested in seeing it for sure.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Morphy on Jul 10th, 2018 at 11:25pm
Gut, rawhide, sinew will all work as cords. Sinew is not necessarily stretchy under the conditions observed in slinging. The amount of tension on a sling cord  is nothing compared to that seen when used as a bow string. That's assuming the cord is a reasonable diameter.

Rawhide, sinew and gut can be reverse twisted and straightened by hanging with a weight until dry. After dried enough tension can be applied to induce a set after which the cord will have negligible stretch. This won't degrade the strength of the cord.

Is it possible that neura refers to nerves? If I remember correctly some cultures would use the sciatic nerve of large animals to make bowstrings. Neura seems to be the same root word as neural possibly? Such as neural tissue. Just a thought.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Bill Skinner on Jul 11th, 2018 at 9:59am
I have used gut as a bow string.  It was small intestine from a whitetail deer. 

Slit it lengthwise.  It will be in layers with a fatty layer in between each, peel them apart and scrape the fat off them.  Hang them somewhere with a weight.  When dry, and that depends on humidity, but is only a couple of hours in sunlight with a breeze, twist it before bringing it down.

It is hard and stays stiff but will soften up in the area where the bowman's knots are tied.  It is not as flexible as a sinew string but is not as stiff as rawhide

If you have dogs, they love it and will chew on it every time you turn your back on them.  And they will destroy the tip of the bow while they are at it.   :( 

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Morphy on Jul 11th, 2018 at 10:40am
https://youtu.be/xkZPuc0GlAY

https://youtu.be/Q1N0XYdyOBQ


This is my preferred method for gut. Rawhide production is similar. My one attempt with wet sinew was not successful. I always reverse twisted it dry after that. I've heard it's possible and faster to twist up wet. No idea if that's true or not.




Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by funditor on Jul 11th, 2018 at 12:31pm
The whole sling
20180711_070044.jpg (3491 KB | 47 )

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by funditor on Jul 11th, 2018 at 12:32pm
The pouch
20180711_070111.jpg (2441 KB | 43 )

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by funditor on Jul 11th, 2018 at 12:32pm
The nick
20180711_070206.jpg (2748 KB | 38 )

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by funditor on Jul 11th, 2018 at 1:31pm
Alhough the nick is clearly visible, it did not break there...

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by TheArchaicPeltast on Jul 27th, 2018 at 9:18am
Wow, that looks great! Impressed with the range! I think most translation state that the slingers ranged twice as far as the Persians. If I remember correctly, that would put the range of the Rhodians at about 400m.

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by Thearos on Jul 28th, 2018 at 6:13am
but the Rhodian slings were braided or plaited

Title: Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Post by The Montanan Slinger on Jul 28th, 2018 at 1:21pm
Oh man I love this story, I think I remember Xenophon being an idiot and sending his light armored infantry to pursue Persian skirmishers. ::)

Oh I died a little on the inside! ;D

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