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Medieval Slings (Read 2868 times)
Kerne
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Medieval Slings
Jul 27th, 2010 at 11:38am
 
Hello all.

I was just wondering the importance of slings in medieval society. Were they still important weapons, or beginning to move the way of the dinosaurs?
The Bayuex Tapestry shows slingers helping out with the invasion, but I was thinking more in the context of 13th, 14th C.

It would be great if somebody could provide some insight on slings from this period - general use, prevalence, etc. Or, at the very least pointing me to some excellent material this site has, which I may or may not have more than definitely overlooked Cheesy.

Cheers,
Kerne

Edit for off-topic postscript:
I'm viewing the forum under the wrong time-zone. How does one change it?

Got it.
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D1997
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #1 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 1:59pm
 
I found this a very interesting topic.
But I think that slings in the middle ages not were used in large quantities. Because 1 the armor was too good. I don't think that a stone from a slinger can penetrate a iron/metal helmet from 20 m (closer is to dangerous for ranged weapons).
2 just simple because I NEVER have read/hear something about slings in the middle ages. and certainly not about slings in the 13th en 14th century because 13th century : longbows,crossbows,plate armor 14th century: longbows,better crossbows, plate armor en the first gunpowder weapons.....


Greetings Dieter
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #2 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 3:15pm
 
Hello and welcome, Kerne.  Slings were probably the most used weapon on earth until the 15th century.  There's much info here:
http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?board=project
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Kerne
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #3 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 3:52pm
 
Thanks for the info guys, it's answered a lot of questions I had.

Especially when you have to think about other factors influencing slings, not just the slings themselves. (Such as improved armour, chainmail, etc, explained by D1997).

Thanks again.
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #4 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 4:24pm
 
  Yes, well there is one thing you guys are forgetting.  STAFF SLINGS.  I think they were used for siege defense extensively, just take a look at old depictions of sieges.  They had ones with enormous pouches on them and little or no cords, just a giant strip of leather or maybe linen? that were used to hurl rocks the size of a football off of the ramparts.  Also slings are extremely effective for siege defense as you can get major range off of a castle wall, I read in another topic about them being used extensively that way.  There is an old pen and ink from the crusades I saw on here once or in a sling history on the internet of a crusader hurling a small boulder with a staff sling. 
  As far as being used extensively as a range weapon regularly for battles I don't think they would have used it much because it's as you say, it would not have been great against the armor that was being used.  On the other hand arrows were not fantastic either as on youtube and from other sources and forums I have looked into penetration of arrows on armor and they didn't burst through as well as you would think.  If a soldier wore what is later called a "padded jack" but has other names for the older ones, the arrows often would not penetrate it as it was made of many many layers of linen and leather, and was worn either by itself or under most chainmail and plate armor.  The chainmail stopped the slash and the padded coat stopped the stabs that could burst through the chainmail and provided padding from crushing blows.
   The thing a sling would be good for though is hitting guys in the face who have an open faced helmet, but then again an arrow can do that too.  Slings were likely used though by anyone in a rush or unprepared or underfunded as they only need the slings, no time consuming arrows.

  Slings were also used for laying siege to ships.  From slings and staff slings they would throw pitch pots, clay pots full of burning tar or oil that they used to catch sails and boats on fire as well as injure or kill the crew members.  I should think they used those during the middle ages, even after they gained the use of gunpowder it would still have been handy in certain situations.
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #5 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 6:10pm
 
LukeWebb wrote on Jul 27th, 2010 at 4:24pm:
 Yes, well there is one thing you guys are forgetting.  STAFF SLINGS.  I think they were used for siege defense extensively, just take a look at old depictions of sieges.  They had ones with enormous pouches on them and little or no cords, just a giant strip of leather or maybe linen? that were used to hurl rocks the size of a football off of the ramparts.  Also slings are extremely effective for siege defense as you can get major range off of a castle wall, I read in another topic about them being used extensively that way.  There is an old pen and ink from the crusades I saw on here once or in a sling history on the internet of a crusader hurling a small boulder with a staff sling.  
 As far as being used extensively as a range weapon regularly for battles I don't think they would have used it much because it's as you say, it would not have been great against the armor that was being used.  On the other hand arrows were not fantastic either as on youtube and from other sources and forums I have looked into penetration of arrows on armor and they didn't burst through as well as you would think.  If a soldier wore what is later called a "padded jack" but has other names for the older ones, the arrows often would not penetrate it as it was made of many many layers of linen and leather, and was worn either by itself or under most chainmail and plate armor.  The chainmail stopped the slash and the padded coat stopped the stabs that could burst through the chainmail and provided padding from crushing blows.
  The thing a sling would be good for though is hitting guys in the face who have an open faced helmet, but then again an arrow can do that too.  Slings were likely used though by anyone in a rush or unprepared or underfunded as they only need the slings, no time consuming arrows.

 Slings were also used for laying siege to ships.  From slings and staff slings they would throw pitch pots, clay pots full of burning tar or oil that they used to catch sails and boats on fire as well as injure or kill the crew members.  I should think they used those during the middle ages, even after they gained the use of gunpowder it would still have been handy in certain situations.


plus you've gotta remember that the trebuchet and the onager, which saw loads of use, are mechanised staff slings.

PS. Kerne, how do you get tht avatar?
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #6 - Jul 27th, 2010 at 6:40pm
 
The Bayeux Tapestry actually shows in the margins a small figure of a slinger scaring birds away from newly sown crops. Just before that you can see the field being harrowed with a horse team and sown with hand scattered seed. This sets the context as springtime for the action in the main panel.

The last British battle that I know of that included slingers as regular soldiers rather than a desperate measure is the Battle of Falkirk where Willliam Walllace was defeated. There was a force of Irish slingers as well as the more famous Welsh longbowmen, who  together massacred the Scotttish infantry schiltrons after their cavalry fled and left them to die.
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D1997
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #7 - Jul 28th, 2010 at 3:52am
 
you know a lot more about the sling than I Undecided
Would I anything to add?
In the M.A it was the habit to fight en shoot in tight formations but how you do that with slingers?
En have they also secondary weapon like a spear or a big dagger or were they protected by men at arms?

Greetings Dieter
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #8 - Jul 28th, 2010 at 7:29pm
 
I imagine the slingers in formation would be spaced more widely.  From what I understand, slingers were considered light infantry and would have few if any other weapons to interfere with their mobility.  Their protection would be their distance from the heavy infantry.  Back then slings had better range that even bows and arrows so the only real threat to your slingers, other than possibly cavalry, would be enemy slingers.  I'm not an expert on the subject... this is info that I picked up mostly here.
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #9 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 7:56am
 
I've read a ton of books regarding medieval battles and a few regarding antiquity ones, but slings are often mentionned only extremely briefly. From what I understand in antiquity battles, they were mostly used in skirmishing and screening roles, kind of like the javelin-throwing units. Screening meaning that they were deployed ahead of the main heavy infantry and cavalry forces in very loose formations, like Rat Man mentionned (Not massed like medieval longbow formations for example). Generally, the screening forces mainly fought each other: However, if one side had a lack of screening forces (Either due to losing too many or not having a balanced army in the first place), then the skirmishing forces could shoot at the heavy infantry to cause hefty morale loss, injuries and death. If the heavy infantry came at them, they simply pulled back with their superior mobility. If the cavalry came at them, well... Cavalry in that era was generally less overwhelming than in the medieval era, but they were still obviously dangerous for the skirmishers and a skirmisher force that is far away from their own cavalry and infantry is extremely vulnerable to cavalry, especially on an open plain. On the other hand, horses made bigger unarmored and unshielded targets to the skirmishers.

Regarding protection, their best protection was not simply getting in melee with the enemy. Later era archers had maces or swords and gambeson armor, but I haven't read any account of slingers of any era having anything more than a dagger or any form of armor at all. However, I did see a few accounts of some slingers having small shields. Considering that you can reload and shoot a sling with only minor difficulty while holding a small shield and that most of the incomming danger from slingers would usually come in the form of arrows, stones and javelins, having a shield made a lot of sense. It probably wouldn't do a whole lot of good in melee though, considering the slinger lack of appropriate melee weaponry.
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #10 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 2:43pm
 
Zywack wrote on Jul 29th, 2010 at 7:56am:
Regarding protection, their best protection was not simply getting in melee with the enemy. Later era archers had maces or swords and gambeson armor, but I haven't read any account of slingers of any era having anything more than a dagger or any form of armor at all. However, I did see a few accounts of some slingers having small shields. Considering that you can reload and shoot a sling with only minor difficulty while holding a small shield and that most of the incomming danger from slingers would usually come in the form of arrows, stones and javelins, having a shield made a lot of sense. It probably wouldn't do a whole lot of good in melee though, considering the slinger lack of appropriate melee weaponry.



actually, i saw an account that seemed fairly accurate medieval program on TV and the skirmishers had a small shield just large enough to block a blow, since if your in the thick of fighting you don't want large roman legionary shield in your way
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #11 - Jul 29th, 2010 at 2:44pm
 
Zywack wrote on Jul 29th, 2010 at 7:56am:
Regarding protection, their best protection was not simply getting in melee with the enemy. Later era archers had maces or swords and gambeson armor, but I haven't read any account of slingers of any era having anything more than a dagger or any form of armor at all. However, I did see a few accounts of some slingers having small shields. Considering that you can reload and shoot a sling with only minor difficulty while holding a small shield and that most of the incomming danger from slingers would usually come in the form of arrows, stones and javelins, having a shield made a lot of sense. It probably wouldn't do a whole lot of good in melee though, considering the slinger lack of appropriate melee weaponry.



actually, i saw an account that seemed fairly accurate medieval program on TV and the skirmishers had a small shield just large enough to block a blow, since if your in the thick of fighting you don't want large roman legionary shield in your way
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #12 - Jul 30th, 2010 at 7:06pm
 
As others said slingers were light infantry in the peltist group designed to open weaknesses in the oponennts line.
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #13 - Jul 30th, 2010 at 8:27pm
 
  How far can you throw a pitch pot?  I know they were used on ships as I mentioned above, but could they not have come in handy in a land battle as well?  It would spook the horses, catch the terrain on the opponents side alight and cause some serious burns to the enemy if it hit or splashed on them.
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Re: Medieval Slings
Reply #14 - Jul 30th, 2010 at 9:23pm
 
I think you are thinking there would be an explosion when the pot hit?  I don't think any of the incendaries were volital enough to explode.  When the pot shattered, they would splatter and it would really suck to be the guy that got hit, but for screening forces to use them required somebody to carry some bulky, fragile, highly flamable stuff and a lit flame of some kind to light them.  Also, a lot of times you were fighting over land, you really didn't want to turn it into a wasteland.  Bill
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