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Precision skills in a historical perspective (Read 10644 times)
Matolay
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Precision skills in a historical perspective
Jan 10th, 2004 at 3:09am
 
Hi there, slingers,
regarding slingshots and precision skills in a historical perspective.

Roman and other ancient armies were usually loaded with skirmishers using slingshots. According to Livius 'History of the Roman Empire', islanders usually made up these units, imported mainly from the Balearic islands and Crete. These people must have made quite a name as slingers. Often slingshot units are simply referred to as 'Balearis' or 'Cretes' and usually both opposing armies deployed them. At least twice the description of these forces becomes very vivid, entertaining and informative regarding slingshots.

First in vol. 28:[37], in the description of Mago's refuge from Gades, (today's Cadiz) Carthage's last stronghold in Spain, during which he fled with his fleet to the Balearics, namely to the smaller island of Pitysa, which about that time said to have had a Punic population. Here Livius remarks the Balearic islanders to be by far the best among all of the then known people in the art of slinging stones, which they were mastering to near perfection. Upon the attempt to enter the harbor of the larger of the Balearic islands (Mallorca), Magos fleet were met by such a dense hail-like storm of stones delivered by slingshots that they had to leave in a hurry.

This certainly demands respect, but then later on it gets even better. In vol. 38:[29], shortly after the defeat of Antioch, during the siege of Same, Cephallania (today's Turkey) where consul M. Fulvius deployed 100 slingshots from Aegium, Patrae and Dyme. There you get a very accurate description of the vicious power of this weapon in the hands of a skilled slinger.

As Livius says, these people used to practice slinging by tradition from very early ages using the round stones found on their beaches in abundance, hurling these far out the sea. Thus, they were able to sling heavier stones further and with greater accuracy than any Balearic people was able to. Their slingshots probably had 3 cords, because Livius furthermore says that - 'Their slingshot didn't have just one (2) ordinary cord as the Balearic slingshots and those used by other people but were made out of three layers hardened by lots of sewing so they didn't bend; the projectile too remained steady during slinging and flew off like it had been shot out from a bow. These slingers were used to practice aiming at small wooden rings and could not only deliver precise shots towards an enemy head but even the part of the face they were aiming at.'

Needless to say that broke Same's resistance and they gave up the town.

Best regards
Gabor Matolay
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Hondero
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #1 - Jan 10th, 2004 at 9:06am
 
It´s a pleasure to read your post with those historical references on the sling from Livius. The forum is growing in all the branches of the subject (congratulations Chris) I´m a collector of quotes about the sling, almost an anxious hunter of them and enjoy when I find a new one, which already is more difficult. In fact, I have written a History of the sling where I incorporate a wide corpus of references (all times all places).
It is specially interesting for me the second reference you mention, where it is described how the Achean slings were. I have always had a special interest by knowing how they were, the best slings of the world for accuarcy according to Livius. I even got to investigate something on the subject, but my knowledge of Latin is not too good. The fact is that the subject seems to follow dark and nobody has still kept awake it. In the text of Livius there are some understood that in his days could be clear, but today are not and they require linguistics research. As  for example the one of the Balearic sling made of a single cord, etc. In the forum there are people who seem to handle the Latin, like Chris, and if somebody is interested we could do some research on the subject within the forum. It would be a good contribution to the culture of the sling, worthy to publish itself in other means: a study on the design of the best sling of the world.
I animate you, guys
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Matolay
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #2 - Jan 10th, 2004 at 1:05pm
 
To Hondero,

I'd love to look at some of the quotes you have gathered. Can we have a taste?

Regarding Livius talking of one cord or string, it is the obvious interpretation of an outsider watching a Balearic type two cord slingshot just after release; - he sees one long string with a pouch in the middle.

About the deployment  of the Achai slingshots, Same offered fierce resistance. The defenders were instantly rebuilding the holes created in the battlement by the siege engines and were not only defending the walls with all possible means, but also made violent fallouts repelling the romans. It was because of this standstill the slingers were deployed as a sort of tactical weapon against the people on the walls. The defendants 'tasted' stones for four days before finally giving in to this treat, as they were running out of people to replace the many wounded and killed on the walls.

Regards Matolay





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Chris
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #3 - Jan 11th, 2004 at 12:56am
 
It's certainly an interesting read for all those wondering about a 3-corded sling historically.  Anyone care to do a bit of follow up research on this source to see if they can dig up any more info about such a sling variety.  It's the first historical reference I've heard about. 

I'm wondering about this quote: "Their slingshot didn't have just one (2) ordinary cord..."  Why use the word "one" and "cord" singular when it's pretty universal to classify a regular sling as two cords?  It just seems wrong to assume they mean two, unless you know something I don't.  Matolay, anything you can add?

Chris

P.S. Welcome Matolay.  I'm looking forward to your future posts.
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Matolay
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #4 - Jan 11th, 2004 at 9:24am
 
Well, in my Hungarian translation, Livius clearly says 'one string'. Maybe someone should look into the latin original. I don't expect Livius to know the slingshot firsthand but he certainly could have seen one. The explanation is a bit superficial, he says the Achai slingshots don't have just one 'string' but he does not tell us how many it had. I still think the Balearic slingshot having only one string or cord (with the pouch in the middle) is very well described if sighted from a distance. Possibly there was only one string that went through the pouch?
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #5 - Jan 11th, 2004 at 10:02am
 
Quote:
Hi there, slingers,
regarding slingshots and precision skills in a historical perspective.

Roman and other ancient armies were usually loaded with skirmishers using slingshots. According to Livius 'History of the Roman Empire', islanders usually made up these units, imported mainly from the Balearic islands and Crete. These people must have made quite a name as slingers. Often slingshot units are simply referred to as 'Balearis' or 'Cretes' and usually both opposing armies deployed them. At least twice the description of these forces becomes very vivid, entertaining and informative regarding slingshots.

First in vol. 28:[37], in the description of Mago's refuge from Gades, (today's Cadiz) Carthage's last stronghold in Spain, during which he fled with his fleet to the Balearics, namely to the smaller island of Pitysa, which about that time said to have had a Punic population. Here Livius remarks the Balearic islanders to be by far the best among all of the then known people in the art of slinging stones, which they were mastering to near perfection. Upon the attempt to enter the harbor of the larger of the Balearic islands (Mallorca), Magos fleet were met by such a dense hail-like storm of stones delivered by slingshots that they had to leave in a hurry.

This certainly demands respect, but then later on it gets even better. In vol. 38:[29], shortly after the defeat of Antioch, during the siege of Same, Cephallania (today's Turkey) where consul M. Fulvius deployed 100 slingshots from Aegium, Patrae and Dyme. There you get a very accurate description of the vicious power of this weapon in the hands of a skilled slinger.

As Livius says, these people used to practice slinging by tradition from very early ages using the round stones found on their beaches in abundance, hurling these far out the sea. Thus, they were able to sling heavier stones further and with greater accuracy than any Balearic people was able to. Their slingshots probably had 3 cords, because Livius furthermore says that - 'Their slingshot didn't have just one (2) ordinary cord as the Balearic slingshots and those used by other people but were made out of three layers hardened by lots of sewing so they didn't bend; the projectile too remained steady during slinging and flew off like it had been shot out from a bow. These slingers were used to practice aiming at small wooden rings and could not only deliver precise shots towards an enemy head but even the part of the face they were aiming at.'

Needless to say that broke Same's resistance and they gave up the town.

Best regards
Gabor Matolay

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Matolay
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #6 - Jan 11th, 2004 at 10:03am
 
Although Livius does not mention the number of cords on the Achai slings, it can obviously only be three. The third cord must be the trigger cord. About the one string or cord, it is possible this construction adds to the strength and endurance of the sling. Where does your two cord slings break first after long and heavy use? Without ever having slung, i bet it will break where the cord is attached to the pouch. If the material is leather then the use of just one string must be contributing to the overall strength and durability of the weapon.
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #7 - Jan 11th, 2004 at 2:24pm
 
Hi Matolay, I see that your schedule to write is concordant with mine. where come you from?.
Well, the quotes on the sling are written in Spanish and it would take some  work to me to translate them suitably since I do not dominate the English very well. In another occasion I can send some interesting one.

As far as the Balearic sling, I think you are right in your last message and that it isn´t so obvious that the description of Livius is the impression of an outsider. In his book he uses previous writings  from anothers authors contemporaries of the events, like Polibius, wich even participated in many battles and knew very well the weapons. His description of the Achaian sling is detailed, saying that it was reinforced by numerous sewings, which reflects a meticulous vision of the weapon and not the superficial vision of an outsider Even an outsider can see two cords tied to a pouch in a sling, I think.  
Strabo describes the Balearic sling saying only that it was woven with hemp and reinforced with horsehair and sinews. It seems to me that the description of Livius indicates exactly that the Balearic sling was a single braid, perhaps with a very narrow pouch or a split in the midle like present Balearic slings.

As far as the Achaian sling, the Latin text says: "Et est non simplicis habenae... but   "triplex scutale, crebis suturis duratum".... = And is not of a single strap, like those of the Baliarics and other nations, but they consist of three "scutale", stiffened by being sewn together... The problem is in the translation of the word "scutale", that it is confused and someone translate like strap of the sling and others like pouche of the sling. In my opinion it means the pouche by its similarity to the form of the shield (scutum). So it would be triple pouche, made of three sewn pieces as it says literally the text , and so it would adopt a shape slightly dished to lodge the projectile and that it did not slide in  the turn around, as continues saying the Latin text, or maybe the sling was done of three straps that were sewn each other at the end to form the widening of the pouch (this is my opinion). In this case the sling would have actually three cords, but in the previous guess no.

As it is seen, the subject is not clear and requires an investigation comparing different Latin texts relative to the sling to see the most usual  meaning of the different words relative to it.

Saludos


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Matolay
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #8 - Jan 11th, 2004 at 4:09pm
 
Saludos Hondero,

I must say I agree, 'scutale' must be the pouch, in my dictionary it says ‘slingshotskin’ which cannot be other than the pouch. From Livius description it certainly seems like he had the chance to examine the Achai sling firsthand. If we are right about the single strap for the Balearic type slingshot then his description is quite accurate here as well. The fact that he says the Achai sling is not of a single strap points to the presence of the trigger cord in my opinion. That the projectile didn’t slide during turnaround also seems to suggest just that.

Where did you find that description in Strabo? I’d like to check it out in mine.

By the way, I’m from the blue planet called earth!  Wink Partly Araucana, born in the land of the Huns, living amongst the Vikings.

Your english is excellent.
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #9 - Jan 12th, 2004 at 1:05pm
 
But this link: http://lysy2.archives.nd.edu/cgi-bin/words.exe?scutale says that scutale is a thong.
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Matolay
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #10 - Jan 12th, 2004 at 4:14pm
 
Servus Gaius_Cornelius

Right you are. Which is it then thong or pouch? Hondero was right too, this needs thourough investigation if someone would like to reconstruct an Achai sling. Perhaps some of these Achai slingshots or at least their toughened pouches/thongs have survived laying hidden in some museum magasine. Egyptian slingshots and even lead pellets from the late period have survived. Heard the other day that the Greek are somewhat left behind when it comes to internet. Only 17% have access but perhaps there are Achai slingshots on display in a museum somewhere - maybe there are even slingers around still?  Roll Eyes

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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #11 - Jan 12th, 2004 at 6:21pm
 
Yes, as I said the problem is that there are differents translations of "scutale". My VOX latin dictionary translate it clearly as "Pouch of the sling". And there is not another source to clarify the matter than latin texts, as I´m afraid neither drawings nor archeological slings have been kept. We certainly need a Greek slinguer in the forum   ???.
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Matolay
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #12 - Jan 12th, 2004 at 10:27pm
 
My reason for writing here was reading Livius. When he described the Achai slings it was the second time he made me wonder about this weapon. I began to search the web on slings and found you guys. Great site full of useful info on the subject.

Since then I've been reading on and find to my amazement yet another very good description of a slingshot. This time it is a new invention (173-171 BC) used againtst the Romans by the Macedon king Perseus.

Hondero check out your latin version at 42[65] it's quite exciting. It was a completely new projectile - a pretty long arrowhead mounted on a short stick with three wings made of spruce at the other end. This awesome thing had two straps on the middle with uneven length and was launched by a slinger.

Does anyone know this weapon and how to sling it?
It did a great damage amongst the Romans it says.



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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #13 - Jan 13th, 2004 at 5:04am
 
Ah Matolay, devotee of Livius, you have revealed to the forum my most valued secrets on the sling  Angry: the achaian sling and the cestrosfendon. Effectivly I know the passage from Livius about a  fantastic weapon to send darts with a sling and that terrified  the Romans in the macedonian wars. Some days ago Ben (Whipartist) asked for something similar, remembering perhaps an old forum to which several fellows like him, Jimb and I belongued. There I exposed the subject already some years ago. Then I investigated the subject in detail and I got to keep awake the use and construction of the weapon. It works really well and it´s deadly, very powerful. Nevertheless it requires much skill to throw and perhaps for that reason it  didn´t get to become popular. The projectil is a relatively short dart that is sent with a sling equipped with a special pouch and two cords of different length. Using the weapon I lost several darts, but I think there is someone  still someplace.
Go on exploring Livius and other authors, they are a source of wisdom. As for me, you are designate literary adviser of the forum, specialized in clasic languages  Wink.
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Re: Precision skills in a historical perspective
Reply #14 - Jan 13th, 2004 at 5:18am
 
This thread is getting VERY interesting to me.  Please post more on this subject when you have time Hondero. 

                           Ben
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