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Balearic Slingers (Ancient history) (Read 6523 times)
JohnHorn
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Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Jun 7th, 2004 at 8:55pm
 
Greetings from Norway! I'm mostly an ancient history freak.
It's good to see people who don't shirk away from doing what interests them, as you have an interest in slinging. Very intriguing, I did not expect to find such a place..
You guys are pretty amazing, I love the videos you do..

I have some very specific questions regarding the best of the best in Ancient slinging.. of course, the best of the best being the ones from the Balearic isles. These most often belonged to the multi-ethnic Carthaginian mercenary warmachine.

Diodorus writes that mothers in the Balearic islands would place a piece of bread on top of a pole, and the young slinger was not allowed to eat it until he has knocked it off with his sling.

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I am currently discussing and trying to persuade non-believers in the www.LegionTotalwar.com forum, who think that arrows had more kinetic energy than a lead bullet. You see, there's a realistic Strategygame called "Rome:Total War" coming this Fall. In that game, Balearic slingers (and other slingers) will be included as units. In this realistic game, you have morale, ammunition, weather (rain makes the bowstrings less efficient), and a plethora of other factors.
In this game, the battles are Epic (10`000++ soldiers) and realtime. The strategymap (with diplomacy etc) is turnbased.. 
The game is not released yet.. it won "Best PC Game" and "Best Strategy game" of E3 2004 from IGN and Firingsquad..  The Rome:TW engine was also used in a Tv-show on UK BBC2 called "Time Commanders", and another show using the RTW engine is starting in the US for History Channel, called "Decisive Battles." Starting the 17th of July..

Here's an in-game screenshot of the game:
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The slingers I've seen in this game so far (on Time Commanders), have slung their bodies around, like some Olympic competition, isn't this a overly wasteful way to sling? Getting all dizzy.. etc..

Now, back on topic.

The difference between Rock and Lead ammunition seems to be very significant for the range, due to the assymetric and non-aerodynamic form of a rock. So we must probably make an effort to seperate the two.

According to Xenophon, the farthest they could fire is approximately 400 yards (approx 400 meters). Though, according to Xenophon, they were meant to be thrown at the range of 250 meters, because at 400 meters, the kinetic energy will dissipate. Still, 250 meters supercedes the practice-range Vegetius mentions on archers, which is 180 meters.

1st question: What is the longest range someone has been able to recreate with LEAD bullets?

2nd question: Is Xenophon and Diodorus exaggerating the range? Or could it in fact be possible, as the Balearic slingers have trained from infancy.. (it becomes like second nature)

3rd question: What is the exit velocity of a slingshot at maximum, compared to an arrow? And if the slingshot has a greater exit velocity, how quickly does this velocity dissipate due to air resistance?

4th question: What method of slinging did the ancient Balearics pursue? IS there anything at all that can lead you excellent people to make conclusions of this?

I've said in the LegionTotalwar forums that, even if the arrow is faster, that doesn't make up for the much heavier kinetic momentum of the lead bullet! I've read that a lead bullet creates an "impressive" impression on a concrete wall, while an arrow can hardly be expected to dent it. Surely, such kinetic force should be devestating for the person who gets hit in a mock battle? The shock on the nervous system is the issue here.

I've also read examples of text where the lead bullets are said to have penetrated the armoured helmets of the Romans. Now, if this is true, it is amazing, but then again, they weren't exactly using Toledo steel in those helmets... By the way, the period we are talking about (264-150 bc - The 3 Punic Wars), the Romans did not have Lorica Segmentata (segmented heavy armour), but they used Lorica Hamata, chainmail-technology "borrowed" from Gaul.

All in all, all historians from that period of history seem to point to the idea that Slingers were far deadlier than Bows.. As bows hadn't had time to develop yet. And furthermore, Slings might've died out because of "fashion" or laziness..   

I have a belief about the events leading up weapons becoming obsolete. I believe that it is humanity's laziness that leads to these developments. For every "improvement" in weaponry, the weapon seems to get easier and easier to -learn- , but not necessarily deadlier.
In ancient times, the sling may have been the best, but it's easier to learn the technique of archery. Then, they moved from archery to crossbows (china developed Crossbows in 400 BC, but it was a fad).. Crossbows required almost no strength, and allowed you to use more effort on aiming.
Then, we move from bows to muskets/arquebusiers.
Indeed, Longbows were undoubtedly much deadlier than the petty earliest muskets, but the muskets were FAR easier to learn to use for a totally green unit.. shortening the time it takes to train a functioning unit.. perhaps a strategic advantage?

BTW.. It would be awesome if any of you could make a video where you use the real stuff - lead-bullets - and try to penetrate somewhat historically correct armour..
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Chris
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #1 - Jun 7th, 2004 at 10:11pm
 
Welcome John.

I'll try to answer as many of your questions as I can. 

"the best of the best being the ones from the Balearic isles" - Although they were certainly very accurate, this modern notion they are the best probably stems from the fact that the Balears had the most written about them (a significant volume through their employment as auxiliaries in the roman army).  Historically, I couldn't tell you how they ranked up against the best of the Greek, Assyrian, Babylonian....

I would say that an arrow and a sling have similar kinetic energy.  Physically, however, I would tend to think that the mechanical advantage of using a sling to extend your arm is more powerful and efficient then just drawing back a bow string.  We know that slings can out-range bows, so the question is, which weight to range ratio is higher.   With some data, you could deduce the relative kinetic energy. 

I did see Time Commanders when I was in the UK.  I was disappointed about the significance they placed on slingers, and how the bow was considered the premier ranged weapon, when this is total false in many pre-Roman military engagements. 

Jurek, a member here, is achieving ranges of around 1400 feet (~430m) with Roman-like lead projectiles.  Although I truly respect Jurek's range, I believe that ancient, professional slingers likely achieved ranges over 2000 feet.

The main focus in the Balearic isles is accuracy, not range as far as I know.

A seasoned slinger could probably approach "muzzle" velocities of around 300 mph, but I'm relying on unsubstantiated data.  I'm not sure about a arrow's velocity.  An arrow has much greater drag then a lead projectile (Roman glands were american football / rugby shaped for minimal drag).

In Mr. Hawkings "Observation of the sling", he notes that lead projectiles were found imbedded in fortification walls. 

One thing arrows do have over slings is their specifically designed to penetrate.  Slings, although incredibly powerful, were not so adept at armor penetration.  However, the impact force would severely stun and quite possibly cause blunt force trauma to the recipient. 

"I've also read examples of text where the lead bullets are said to have penetrated the armoured helmets of the Romans."  Could you please let me know what texts those are.  I've been trying to hunt down references to armor penetration. 

As you explain, slings died out because the training necessary to be effective was enormous.  This is the region that adopted in the crossbow very rapidly because it offered instant usability.  The sling could not compete. 

Tell you friends over at LegionTotalwar about slinging.org.  They can continue the debate over here. Smiley

Chris
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JohnHorn
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #2 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 5:33am
 
Hehe.. thanks for the replies. Smiley

430 Meters! Shocked

Let it be known, I am only discussing the ancient period. Any reference I make to bow or arrow, does not include the longbow or any subsequential medieval/dark ages compound bows..

Quote:
One thing arrows do have over slings is their specifically designed to penetrate.  Slings, although incredibly powerful, were not so adept at armor penetration.  However, the impact force would severely stun and quite possibly cause blunt force trauma to the recipient.


Indeed, the advantage of arrows were that they got stuck in their bodies, without killing them, especially with hooked arrowheads. Then they would fall down and squeam for their mother.. and this of course affects the whole morale and cohesion of the force. So the arrow was a severely disintegrating factor to the army cohesion..

While lead bullets just outright knocked people unconscious or dead. I am interested in challenging the notion that the arrow penetrated so well..

Here's a question: How did the arrow fare when trying to penetrate Lorica Hamata? (chainmail)

I know for a certainty that the lead bullet will have an adverse effect on ANY body clad in chainmail. Any flexible armour that is closely fitted. Leather-armour as wel.. When the leadbullet hits the chainmail, the kinetic energy is easily transferred to the chainmail, which immediately is again transferred to the body. A sort of "chain reaction."

Regarding Time Commanders, and the lack of emphasis on slingers. It really depends on which battle you saw, and in most Northern-European battles, it was the bow which was the primary weapon. In the battle of Marathon for example, you will see they use greek slingers. The same is true with Gaugamela.

I know there were many other slingers around in the world at that time, but I still place the Balearic slingers in a special booth. Purely out of the social context.. just as I place Spartiates of Lakedaimonia in a special booth for being superior hoplites. Again, from the social context of their upbringing and so on. I can think of no other culture that spent so much time on purely cultivating the art of slinging.
The sentence about the bread written by Diodorus says it all, the slinging isn't just something "extra" in Balearic communities, it's their very essence. It permeates everything in their culture. Though we may never know for sure, I think they had excellent range as well as accuracy. They had 3 different lengths of slingers with them at all times.

As for the Assyrians, they're well out of the timeperiod here..  ca 800 bc. And I am not sure if they had yet mastered the art of slinging at that point in history.

The text I read about the penetration of a Roman helmet was another 3rd party account, on TWC forum. So we have nothing but hearsay to work from here. Undecided
But it said that the Roman helmet was found with an entry-hole and exit-hole.. I don't know more than what he said. And yes I'm still looking for proof of that. I am actually under the impression that kinetic energy is MORE important with armour-piercing than the sharpness. As such, I have NO problems believing that the lead bullet could penetrate a helmet better than an arrow. But it would be nicer if I could substantiate that belief. Smiley
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #3 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 9:14am
 
....many/most lead glandes were not simply roundish lumps of lead.  They were "almond-shaped", with a length to width ratio of maybe 3:1.   AND they indeed flew point first with "rifle spin" on them.   So, more than simple blunt-force trauma upon impact is possible and likely.   mgreenfield
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #4 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 9:54am
 
Indeed, the lead bullets were often hammered to a perfectly symmetrical (hence aerodynamic) and sharp shape, and the lead would be more densely compacted..

According to Celsius, Romans even had tools to drag these bullets out of the flesh.. so there was no problem in penetrating the human skin. Still, it is very impressive, considering if you throw such a rock with your bare hands, you're only likely to create a bruise. But the increased energy from the sling-movement is a fairly massive increase.

In this day and age, almost nobody uses slinging any more, so it's hard for most people living today to concieve of this weapon being as powerful as it indeed was. There's a lot of misconceptions and hasty assumptions people make.

Now, for another crucial question (asked at TWC):

Does anyone know the effective single and squad ranged distances of both Sling and bow?

(only ancient period from 300 BC to 14 AD)
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #5 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 11:47am
 
That is one hell of a long post.  Especially with pictures.
Yeah, I watched Time Commanders, and it was quite interesting particularly the descriptions of how the battle was actually fought.  I think the reason that the bow is shown as the predominant weapon is that most battles are from places that either had no missile weapons at all, or mostly used bows, such as the Selucid empire or Caledonia (the ancient near east and Scotland).
Anyway, I have the previous Total War games (Shogun and Medieval) and I was a bit disappointed that slings were not included at all in the medieval, not even in the "early" period (when we know that the anglo-saxons and even the normans used slings, at the very least), but I suppose in the medieval period the sling was very much a minority weapon.
Quote:
Then, they moved from archery to crossbows (china developed Crossbows in 400 BC, but it was a fad).. Crossbows required almost no strength, and allowed you to use more effort on aiming.
The crossbow was not a fad, and it does require a certain amount of strength.  The crossbow was widely used across Europe in the Medieval period, in particular, France and Italy; Anna Comnena, the Byzantine princess, describes the crossbows as the "French Weapon" (around 1100), and Genoese crossbowmen were famous.  The Chinese were even using the crossbow (well, a monster reincarnation: the repeating crossbow) against the Japanese in the Sino-Japanese war of 1894.  And the crossbow is a horrible thing to "span", as it is called.  If there is no windlass, then it requires a massive amount of energy.  But I must agree with your general point; that weaponry has improved due to the ease of use and learning, rather than power (up until the 20th century, at least; nuclear weapons, the machine gun (19th century, but late), and many others come to mind). 
Quote:
Does anyone know the effective single and squad ranged distances of both Sling and bow?
I don't know any real facts about this, but I would assume that the answer depends on what you mean by effective.  By effective range you might mean the range at which the sling could kill someone, or the range at which it could cause psychological injury, and gall the enemy. 
Quote:
While lead bullets just outright knocked people unconscious or dead. I am interested in challenging the notion that the arrow penetrated so well.. 

Here's a question: How did the arrow fare when trying to penetrate Lorica Hamata? (chainmail)
I know that medieval bodkin heads could easily pierce chainmail at fairly long range.  But Roman archery methods and equipment were, like their cavalry, terrible.  They used Syrian style bows, from horseback, but not in massed ranks, and the bows were not amazing quality.  It is known that in 354 BC (I think; thereabouts) the Germanic tribes stopped Roman advance on the Rhine with their longbows; the Romans could not combat this with their own archery.
I think that the superiority of the bow is not really in doubt; it gives similar power, range, and probably better accuracy, to the sling, and has the added bonus that it is easier to train someone in the bow.  But the sling is still comparable.  I think that I would probably be more scared going against slingers than archers; the projectiles would be as good as invisible, and it would just scare me to death.  At least arrows are relatively easy to see.
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #6 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 3:04pm
 
Hello and Welcome John!

We have talked about this "Sling vs. Bow" subject now and then.

Have you read the account of a Greek general noting that his hired slingers were able to outdistance the Persian archers in a battle?. Either the writer or the general's name started with an "X" Anyway, I believe I read it on the Roman Army web site.

You have motivated me to make a video of what projectiles can do to different materials. I will try to sling some lead and concrete projectiles at things like plywood, oak boards, thin sheets of metal... I am not sure if we will be able to post them for a while though.

If you register as a member, you can look through all the topics. I think there is one with the title "Slings vs bows" or something like that. It gives some facts about the two weapons.
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #7 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 5:01pm
 
Oooh. Registered I already have Smiley

Woah, videos to actually prove the worth of the sling.
That would be amazing..  And no hurry.. Take your time. Cheesy
But remember, you're helping to defend the reputation of this long gone amazing tool of warfare.. it deserves some more respect - as I'm sure most of the people in this forum think. Tongue

I dunno about thin metal sheets.. depends on how thin.
The best thing would be to test on the compositions of REAL roman artifacts.
They don't need to be real items, nor in any way painted or detailed..  just a mockup representation of the composite materials as each material compliment eachother.

A scutum (roman shield) is constructed from flat strips of wood that were laid at right angles to each other. Much in the same way that plywood is made today.  The scutum was sealed together then heated and placed in a press while still hot. This press would give the distincive rounded shape. It was then allowed to cool naturally, then when it was removed from the press the scutum would retain it's shape.
There was a layer of leather on each face, and a layer of painted linen on the front surface.  The back of the scutum is painted.  The edges are lined with bronze and secured with iron clench nails.  Rawhide was also used for protecting the edges and was stitched along the edge.  Reinforcement strips of hardwood or iron are nailed to the back of the scutum in order to give the light shield more stiffness. The central horizontal stiffener also forms the handle.  The curvature of the scutum varied from very shallow to very deep, as this scutum is curved.  A deeper curvature served to deflect missiles to either side more easily, between the ranks of soldiers instead of impacting directly into them.  Often, a leather shield cover was made and placed over the scutum to protects it from moisture and minor damage during traveling.
It would be very interesting to see the impact of lead bullets on a composite material representing scutum.

Also, is it possible to test on what would be a Roman helmet? Any metal similar to that? It wasn't of the best quality iron, certainly no toledo steel.

LOL I'm asking too much of you, but I know you want to prove it as well. Wink If you want to prove its worth, you might as well go all the way.

Ah yes.. the historical reference is Xenophon. Who himself was a general and historian. He led the famous campaign "March of the 10`000", and wrote of the events in his book the "Anabasis." So in this case, the general was probably Xenophon himself. Smiley

According to Xenophon they could sling a missile further than the Persians could reach with their bow and arrows, even though the Persians at that time were reckoned the best archers in the world.
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #8 - Jun 8th, 2004 at 5:39pm
 
Hi shigawire (JohnHorn)!

It's Siblesz from legiontotalwar.com

It's great to see so many people that are interested in the art and prowess of the sling. It is definately a weapon to be reckoned with....

Now, on to the archers vs. slingers debate. Just the fact that slingers are way cheaper to maintain than archers is a major factor to consider in terms of the effectiveness of these beasts... To maintain a slinger, he would need only two things:
a.) a sturdy leather home-made sling
b.) rock ammunition

While the leather sling would take a while to make in order to meet perfection in the eyes of the ecperienced slinger, the ammunition could be found anywhere and everywhere the slinger wanted it to be found. All that a slinger needed to do to gather ammunition is to look for a good rock, and stock it in a bag.

Now let's compare that with an archer. An archer needed two things as well. These two things were:
a.) the bow
b.) the arrow

A bow is very easily made... it takes about the same skill that it would take to make a leather sling. But the arrows are a different story. First, one could only carry a limited amount of arrows, and second, arrows were really expensive to be made on a large scale. One need an iron tip to be installed as well as an arrow that could actually reach a long distance.

Now let's just see how an army of slingers would perfom against enemy infantry:

Imagine that there is an Roman army of 1,000 triarii marching towards a Carthaginian army. As the triarii gets closer, 1,000 balearic slingers begin aiming and throwing at the trarii from 300 meters away. Now, a slinger at the time would be able to throw about 6 rounds a minute of rocks... archers would probably be able to do the same but with little accuracy and an archer would empty his ammunition pretty quickly if he was to fire 6 arrows a minute. But the slinger could easily do that without risking a loss to ammunition or accuracy. Now, imagine that these 1,000 slingers begin throwing 6,000 rocks A MINUTE against the coming trarii.... it would be an incredible sight to witness... 6,000 projectiles coming at your men every minute. The streangth and impact of these rock projectiles that would reach speeds of 300 miles an hour would injure some soldiers while hitting the shields of others with tremendous shock. I for one would run for my life at such a sight. Now, with 30,000 projectiles of rocks falling on this army every 5 minutes, the Roman army would have probably been devastated by these rocks within 10 minutes and would  be frightened to death by the sounds of these rocks clashing into their shields and smashing into their feet and helmets.

An army of 1,000 archers could not compete with that firepower. They would be able to shoot around 10,000 arrows every 5 minutes, and most arrows would deflect by the wind to another direction.


P.S.- To admin: I can link this site to our main page if you all want. Smiley http://www.legiontotalwar.com
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #9 - Jun 9th, 2004 at 10:17am
 
Just a short post.
Quote:
A bow is very easily made... it takes about the same skill that it would take to make a leather sling.
Not true.  A bow needs far more work: time, energy, skill.  Firstly, you have to season the wood; takes about three years for a good selfbow.  Then, you have the job of trimming it fown a bit to make it more workable.  You must make sure you don't cut into the sapwood, amongst many other things. And that is just for a long, simple self bow!  A composite bow takes years to make; not just seasoning, but gluing takes a year of drying also, and curing the birch bark cover, and so many other things.  By comparison, a sling can be made in a day's work.  Or even less; maybe as little as twenty minutes!
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #10 - Jun 9th, 2004 at 11:19am
 
Well even more information to my case for the sling's superiority over the bow. Wink
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #11 - Jun 9th, 2004 at 1:55pm
 
more and more i'm wondering if this may not be a moot question.

both mercenary slingers (say Balaeric or Cretan) and archers (say Syrian or Scythian/Parthian) would not come cheap, based on lifelong training with their respective weapons.

both had excellent weapons, especially figuring in lead glandes and barbed arrows.

both could keep up sustained fire. how many glandes would one carry? 5#? 10#? archers typically carried 40+ arrows, plus resupply in the field.

both fire rates were excellent. i know from experience that volley fire at 100-300yards with a bow can easily reach 12/minute accurately. i don't doubt that professional ('from birth') slingers could do the same.

i think if there were any deciding factor it would have to be cost. the archers equipment and resupply (which they were typically responsible for themselves) would be more expensive. making thier asking price higher. but the elite slingers may have commanded just as high a price based on reputation.

no easy answers here... Smiley
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #12 - Jun 9th, 2004 at 2:48pm
 
Arrows are much more cumbersome to carry around.  Slingers might be able to carry hundreds of projectiles.  Most of the roman projectiles were only an inch or two long and less than an inch wide.  You could hold maybe 10 in each hand. These are solid lead, unlike arrows.  Their volume to weight ratio is much greater. 

I think a good slinger could also fire once every 5 seconds, or 12 a minute.  Their potential range would have been greater too. 

Slings also are cheaper to produce, maintain, and transport.  Some infantry started off with slings and then switched to melee weapons (Vikings, who would put the slings in their belts). 

Chris
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #13 - Jun 14th, 2004 at 1:34pm
 
well, Rob. I can agree that both disciplines have been used with great skill etc..

But the fact of the matter is that a lead bullet will carry a LOT more kinetic energy than an arrow. And they're harder to see in transit.. and at Ancient times (which is the topic) they were superior to bows.

As the years went by, the art of making bows was perfected, and thus came into use as a weapon of war. And because it had a more merciful learningcurve, it was easier to train troops in its use, and to train a force quickly enough to cope with a strategic threat that was only some 4 months away..

And absolutely, bows were much harder to make.. but easier to begin to use.. slings has a very steep learning curve, while a bow has a more gentle and forgiving learning-curve.
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Re: Balearic Slingers (Ancient history)
Reply #14 - Jun 14th, 2004 at 1:54pm
 
I need to dispel the notion that ancient bows were inferior to the ones made in the 10th-15th centuries. A composite bow is the same no matter the century. Horn belly, wood core and sinew back. Although the bows profile may vary, they can launch an arrow around 600 yards. Some skeletons recovered in the Crimea show Skythian arrowheads buried deeply in the skull. Parthians could shoot through Roman shields and armour. A recording of an archer from the classical period shot an arrow 55o yards. And yes, most slingers could outshoot that range!
But the bow was still powerful and deadly.
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