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Super-heavy projectiles for the sling (Read 14302 times)
Thearos
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Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Feb 15th, 2011 at 8:49pm
 
Diodoros, 19.109, describes 1000 Balearic slingers in action against the Sicilian Greeks in 311 BC (or thereabouts). He says that they "wounded many and even killed some", by breaking their armour and their shields; the engagement range, within the Carthaginian camp, was short (and gives an idea of what sort of casualties were inflicted by the sling in battle against heavy infantry: mostly wounds, and the same picture is given by Xenophon in the Anabasis).

This is the passage that says that the Baleares throw big stones-- how big ? One mina in weight, namely ca. 450-500 g. 16+ ounces.

Now from this site, I see people slinging 150-250 g stones. But a stone 500g heavy ? A full pound, half a kilo ?

--is this possible ?

--is this some sort of super heavy ammo for this kind of short range engagement, rather than the usual weight of Balearic sling ammo ?
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Aussie
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #1 - Feb 15th, 2011 at 9:34pm
 
I'm sure it could be done by professional  and very strong slingers. After all modern olympic hammer throwers throw a hammer 16 pounds in weight, wih the current world record up over 86 m. Possibly they used a long, two-handed sling and a pirouette style? Wink

Seriously though, with such heavy stones air drag becomes negligible so even a 30 m/s launch will give you close to 100 m. range. But as you suggest, it may not have been the ammunition of choice for all occassions.
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Thearos
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #2 - Feb 15th, 2011 at 10:43pm
 
V. useful point re. weight, drag, and range.

has anyone here tried slinging a stone weighing a pound ? How large would such a stone be ?
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Fundibularius
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #3 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 3:54am
 
Since Palestinian youths nowadays sling whole bricks at Israeli soldiers, 500 g to me does not sound improbable for a normal sling in the hands of a professional at short range.

And there is still the possibility that the Balearics used staff slings. Or does Diodor explicitly mention hand slings?

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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #4 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 6:40am
 
Since the Balearic stone balls were of limestone and were roughly the size of a tennis ball, the weight doesn't match the size, unless the limestone is very dense. I've found that it was common  to sometimes exaggerate or outright lie on certain facts, either to make your side look good, or the enemy look bad. This could be the case here.
  An example of this is seen in the Aeneid---" the hero, Menzetius, putting aside his spear, with a tightened thong, whirled twice around his head the whirling sling and split his adversaries' forehead with a  molten ball and stretched him over a great stretch of sand."

  In order to sling the lead glande hard enough to have the friction of the air melt it, the man would have needed arm muscles like Godzilla.
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Aussie
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #5 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 6:45am
 
Thearos wrote on Feb 15th, 2011 at 10:43pm:
V. useful point re. weight, drag, and range.

has anyone here tried slinging a stone weighing a pound ? How large would such a stone be ?


Granite has a density of 2.63 tonnes per cubic metre so somewhere a whisker larger than a baseball will give you 500 gm.
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Aussie
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #6 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 6:51am
 
slingbadger wrote on Feb 16th, 2011 at 6:40am:
Since the Balearic stone balls were of limestone and were roughly the size of a tennis ball, the weight doesn't match the size, unless the limestone is very dense. I've found that it was common  to sometimes exaggerate or outright lie on certain facts, either to make your side look good, or the enemy look bad. This could be the case here.
 An example of this is seen in the Aeneid---" the hero, Menzetius, putting aside his spear, with a tightened thong, whirled twice around his head the whirling sling and split his adversaries' forehead with a  molten ball and stretched him over a great stretch of sand."

 In order to sling the lead glande hard enough to have the friction of the air melt it, the man would have needed arm muscles like Godzilla.


The idea that anyone could sling hard enough to melt or even noticeably heat a lead projectile is sheer nonsense. Even bullets fired from guns don't come close. It's obviously pure hyperbole. (I have wondered if it's a translation ambiguity referring to the gland's being made as a casting, but Thearos assures me that the wording does actually mean melted in flight.)

Our famed 600 left handed Benjamite slingers who could, "sling at a hair's breadth and not miss", is also just a figure of speech not a viable accuracy measure, as no distance for the alleged feat is given.
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #7 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 8:23am
 
yes the balearics tend to sling heavy rocks - it's one reason they tend to use shortish slings.

If you look at any of the balearic threads - large rocks are common.

If you look at the footage of luis pon livermore re-enacting the goliath thing, he uses approx 1/2 pound rocks.

So any records of balearic using big rocks are both going to be historically accurate and also accurate to the modern day.

It's also why the balearic distance racord is under 200 metres. 'Cos they're heaving boulders Smiley
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #8 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 8:32am
 
Aussie wrote on Feb 16th, 2011 at 6:51am:
slingbadger wrote on Feb 16th, 2011 at 6:40am:
An example of this is seen in the Aeneid---" the hero, Menzetius, putting aside his spear, with a tightened thong, whirled twice around his head the whirling sling and split his adversaries' forehead with a  molten ball and stretched him over a great stretch of sand."

 In order to sling the lead glande hard enough to have the friction of the air melt it, the man would have needed arm muscles like Godzilla.


The idea that anyone could sling hard enough to melt or even noticeably heat a lead projectile is sheer nonsense. Even bullets fired from guns don't come close. It's obviously pure hyperbole. (I have wondered if it's a translation ambiguity referring to the gland's being made as a casting, but Thearos assures me that the wording does actually mean melted in flight.)

I think the simpler explanation is that the sling bullet deformed on impact in such a way that it looked like it had melted in flight. I'm sure Virgil knew that lead is soft and would expect a glans to be a little blunted, but may have been baffled by exactly how much it deformed. This may be an example of accidental hollowpoint or wadcutter glandes expanding on impact. Doesn't this bullet look molten? Maybe Menzetius slung with enough force to make a sling bullet look like that, to a lesser degree.

I think Aussie makes a very good point about large stones being specialized mid-range ammo. I can see a trained slinger using 500 g  stones to break an enemies phalanx amongst other things. How accurate are the competitors in Hammer Throw competitions, though?
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Pikåru wrote on Nov 19th, 2013 at 6:59pm:
Massi - WTF? It's called a sling. You use it to throw rocks farther and faster than you could otherwise. That's all. 
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Thearos
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #9 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 11:35am
 
The Aeneid is an epic poem, and it's full of exaggerations-- that's the point of that kind of poetry. Nonetheless, the ancients were convinced that lead melted in flight-- Aristotle, for instance, mentions it.

The Diodoros is different: it's a narrative historical source, that purports to be factual. It's written perhaps 250 years after the event, but uses an earlier source (perhaps Timaios). But the text, as all ancient historians, was transmitted by hand copies over centuries, so something could be wrong with the text (for instance, it could have read "half a mina" rather than "a mina", i.e. stones 250g in weight); Diodoros could have misunderstood his source; his source could have gotten it wrong. But here's the passage-- which makes it sound like Baleares *usually slung very heavy

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Diodorus_Siculus/19F*.html

109 But when Hamilcar saw that his men were being overpowered and that the Greeks in constantly increasing numbers were making their way into the camp, he brought up his slingers, who came from the Baliaric Islands and numbered at least a thousand. 2 By hurling a shower of great stones, they wounded many and even killed not a few of those who were attacking, and they shattered the defensive armour of most of them. For these men, who are accustomed to sling stones weighing a mina,19 contribute a great deal toward victory in battle, since from childhood they practise constantly with the sling. 3 In this way they drove the Greeks from the camp and defeated them.
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Mauro Fiorentini
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #10 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 12:48pm
 
Thearos,
use experimental archaeology: try to sling such a projectile against a bronze sheet placed at different distances  Wink

I can't think of a better method to verify what Diodoro wrote  Smiley
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #11 - Feb 16th, 2011 at 1:00pm
 
No you go first: you go slinging with a hunk of stone bigger than your fist and weighing half a kilo, and with a balearic split pouch, and balearic style (lots of rotations behind your body), then release this at a metal plate without killing any bystander.

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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #12 - Feb 17th, 2011 at 7:58am
 
Grin
I could do this, because I sling at the beach, against the sea; unfortunately, I don't think the bronze sheet will float ehehehehehehe  Cheesy
(and I think I'd follow the stone in its flight, 'cause I'm not a good slinger and I'd make some mess, like forgetting to release the notch, eheheheh)
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #13 - Feb 17th, 2011 at 8:03am
 
I could see really big rocks being better for ranges under 100yds as many people including my self have found larger rocks to be more accurate and I would immagine it would pack quite a whallop on a man and/or his sheild.
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Re: Super-heavy projectiles for the sling
Reply #14 - Feb 17th, 2011 at 2:04pm
 
When I slung lead projectiles at a stone wall,  the bullet deforms on impact, when I picked it up for closer inspection, it was warm to the touch, which might have contributed to the legend of lead heating and melting in flight.

You can easily replicate the experiment without a sling. Take a fishing sinker, bang it with a hammer a couple of times and feel it, it will be warmer than before.
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