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How did the ancient sling ? (Read 19385 times)
Thearos
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How did the ancient sling ?
Aug 2nd, 2014 at 6:56pm
 
Prompted by an overheated discussion in another thread, I thought it might be useful to present the evidence again. I'm mostly interested in the "golden age of slinging", Classical Greek antiquity, though use evidence from other periods. I also assume that the point is critical use of sources-- i.e. thinking about them, but not rejecting them to rely on subjective impression and gut feeling. The below is a bit rough because I'm far from libraries.

Literary evidence
There are only two I know of. They are later than the period we're talking about.

1. Virgil, Aen. 9.558.
stridentem fundam positis Mezentius hastis
ipse ter adducta circum caput egit habena
et media aduersi liquefacto tempora plumbo
diffidit
Mezentius lays down his spears, and thrice around his head drives the buzzing sling
with taut thong, and with molten lead splits the forehead of his foe,
It describes 3 rotations above the head, slinging lead. Problem: it's in an epic poem, which describes lots of things, some quite exaggerated. . But precision and realism might be aimed for here, in contrast with the more outré fighting scenes


2.Vegetius 2.23
Adsuescendum est etiam, ut semel tantum funda circa caput rotetur, cum ex ea emittitur saxum.

The habit should be given, to spin the sling only once around the head, when it is used to throw a stone.

The same adverb, "around", being used in both passages, helo. or abbreviated helo. is being described here, since "three times" must describe multiple rotations, with a low rotor. This can be considered absolutely certain, on linguistic grounds.

These are the only two pieces of ancient evidence in texts. Their interpretation is not ambiguous. The problem is that they cannot be directly used to speak of how people might have slung in say 400 BCE.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #1 - Aug 2nd, 2014 at 7:10pm
 
Now for the visual evidence. A certain amount is gathered here:

http://dagr.univ-tlse2.fr/sdx/dagr/feuilleter.xsp?tome=2&partie=2&numPage=421&no...

and more here

http://slinging.org/index.php?mact=Album,m5,default,1&m5albumid=4&m5returnid=53&...

where the captions do not give dates.

The Makron cup (discussed elsewhere; here, row 9. image 3) provides a clear instance of helo style, because of the position of the right hand (pronate, palm upwards). The detail is strikingly realistic.

The very standard position in Greek and pre-Greek visual evidence also argues for helo style. This has the pouch held straight out with the left hand, and the right hand held high behind the head or at head level. See images 2-3 (row 2, image 3), from 1450 BCE, 5-3 = 6-2 (I'm not sure of the date of this, but think it's Anatolian and ca. 900 BCE), 1-2 (730 BCE, Paros), 11-2 (which must be ca. 520 BCE). The Aspendian tetradrachms can be added here.

On which, discussion here:

http://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1396591565/0


This pose could be the starting point for what people here like to call Greek style, but more likely for rotations above and around the head-- helo style.

5-2 also makes sense as the starting point of a helo (or "Byz" with one rotation) style.

5.1 could be the start of a "vaquero" or fig-8 style. The Corinthian aryballos ca. 620 BCE, found on Delos, discussed by Rawlings, which I mentioned on this forum, could also represent such a position.

I do not know how to interpret the Assyrian images of slinging, with the right arm outstretched.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #2 - Aug 2nd, 2014 at 7:12pm
 
Comparative evidence.

In a post, Mr Harrop mentioned how in the modern middle-east, most people sling with multiple rotations. This also chimes with videos I've seen, of Palestinians or Afghans slinging. (I do not mention the Peruvians). The implication here might be that traditional Old-World slinging societies practice multiple rotations, helo or side-arm or behind the body, and that this is a natural style to suppose ancient (Greek, E. Mediterranean) slingers to have used.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #3 - Aug 2nd, 2014 at 7:12pm
 
Please correct the title of the thread to

How did the ancients sling ?
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #4 - Aug 2nd, 2014 at 8:10pm
 
Thearos wrote on Aug 2nd, 2014 at 7:10pm:
I do not know how to interpret the Assyrian images of slinging, with the right arm outstretched.


...

The Assyrians are clearly using an overhand style, not helicopter.  It's impossible to tell whether it's figure 8 or not.

Also, all of the images in the pre-Roman file can be argued to be showing overhand except the Egyptian one.

http://slinging.org/uploads/images/historical/preroman_files/slingfs.gif
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Sorry, but it's a pet peeve of mine:  'Yea' isn't the word you want.  It's 'yeah'.  'Yea' is an anachronistic word you see in the King James bible. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Spellcheck, I shall fear no misspellings for thou art with me.  Thy dictionary and thy thesaurus, they comfort me.
 
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #5 - Aug 2nd, 2014 at 9:18pm
 
I would like to point out that the slingers are behind the archers, possibly inferring that the slingers had more range than the archers.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #6 - Aug 3rd, 2014 at 5:49am
 
I think helo *is* overhand, just with revolutions.

Note that what I am saying is that based on texts and visual conventions, I am pretty sure that ancient Greeks and Romans DID use helicopter, Old-World-style. They may have used other styles too; the evidence is too sketchy. . But when I sling helo, I am sure that I am using an ancient style. I want to do this, and improve in this particular style.
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #7 - Aug 5th, 2014 at 3:16pm
 
like today there would probably have been no fixed style.
The roman legionnaires would have been drilled in a given style, no doubt. But the average slinger wasn't a full time soldier so would most likely use whatever style they were most comfortable with.

And for battle formation, overhead is just not practical.
It takes up a lot of space, it's slow between shots, and it raises the chance of a missile going sideways, or behind. 

A fig 8 type style or balearic sidearm is far more practical, useful and less potentially lethal to your colleagues.

You can pack slingers doing fig 8 3-4 feet apart quite safely (all these things I've tested in the field - well up a hillfort anyway Smiley, length of sling is largely irrelevant.
So short sling with heavy rocks for close up or longer slings with lead bullets don't require more space per slinger.

10-12 shots a minute is easily achieved without rushing and can be kept up all day with out strain (tested that one in the rain, 20mph winds and sleet).
It's also far more easy to be accurate and powerful at the same time.   

I can't think of any positives for helicopter style in combat.

Helicopter is just not practical under battle conditions, unless there are very few of you spaced a long way apart.

But even then just about every other style is better for combat.

Our ancestors weren't primitives or idiots, and they were far more practical and skilled than any of us will ever be. The sling was an every day tool and you can bet every last silver owl in greece that their slinging style was efficient, effective and practical.
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Do All things with Honour and Generosity: Regret Nothing, Envy None, Apologise Seldom and Bow your head to No One  - works for me Smiley
 
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #8 - Aug 5th, 2014 at 4:46pm
 
Curious Aardvark wrote on Aug 5th, 2014 at 3:16pm:
I can't think of any positives for helicopter style in combat.



Sling LOOONG distances is what I'm thinking of. To outrange archers. Like the guy painted by Makron on that cup. Or indeed all of the guys standing in "Y" position (with the sling outstretched above the head)-- assuming that position has any basis in reality, it develops into helo. Or like the guys Thucydides describes slinging long distance into an enemy camp and getting hits on soldiers walking around (so that they have to walk around with armour on-- Thuc. 2.81).

Personally, I would visualise slingers in a fairly loosely strung line, rather than arrayed shoulder to shoulder. 

Fig-8: I wonder if it was used for incendiary projectiles, just like Spaniards used it for grenades.
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #9 - Aug 6th, 2014 at 7:14am
 
helicopter is actually pretty useless for long distance slinging.
There's just no way to get the whole body behind the throw.

Byzantine, fig 8, balearic/sidearm - can all use the waist and rest of the body. helo is just shoulders and arms.
Even the helo(ish) style yurek uses , has the sling canted behind him at an angle to allow for usig the rest of the body to aid the throw.

And for both real and psychological impact on a body of men a denser cloud of missiles is always more effective than a loose random bombardment.

The starting pose - is most likely simply for artistic merit.
But it could also lead to a fig8 or straight overarm throw.

Or any bother throw that started with the pouch being dropped.

I think this is one of those historical aspects of life that was so common and widely known, that historians just didn't bother recording it.

So the best you can do is look at how slingers work today and assume that what works now worked then.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #10 - Aug 6th, 2014 at 2:04pm
 
Yes, and that is why I think multi-rotations style was used for long-range battle slinging: vids of trad. slinging cultures doing it that way.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #11 - Aug 6th, 2014 at 2:08pm
 
Helo, here, just stands for multi-rotational styles-- which, of course, are angled for optimal biomechanics and accuracy. ANything else is just semantics.

I.e., whenever you read helo, just think "the best helo I can imagine". For instance, balearic, side arm, helo, are all variants of multi-rotations.
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #12 - Aug 9th, 2014 at 5:12am
 
Vegetius, 3.14
Funditores sunt qui fundis lino uel saetis factis - has enim dicunt esse meliores - contorto circa caput brachio dirigunt saxa.

Slingers are those who throw stones with slings made of linen or coarse hair (the latter are said to be the best) by turning / twisting their arm around the head.

(For me, this, again, is about revolutions around the head, i.e helo style).
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #13 - Aug 11th, 2014 at 6:31am
 
yeah but again - it's slow, very inaccurate with power and just not a practical, all day slinging style.

fig 8 is short to medium range - say with lead bullets 250-300 metres maximum. But it can be kept up all day and the next day etc.
For distances up to 100 metres, it can be used with extreme accuracy and a very flat trajectory. Slingers can be packed together for maximum impact on approaching troops.

Helicopter - called so because you spin it around ABOVE YOUR head. has little practical usage.

You can't just mix up a bunch of different styles and claim they're the same - they aren't.

A balearic sidearm throw is quite different than a overhead helicopter throw. For one, in the belearic style the sling never lifts above shoulder level. Maximum power can be achieved as easily with NO rotations as with several.
Body position is totally different.
etc etc.

For long distance ie: over 300 metres, then yes multiple rotations were probably used - but referencing the furthest conventional sling throw on record where the missile was recovered. larry bray uses a non-rotational slinging style.

So do you go by what you want to be true or by what has been proved to be practical ?

In the absence of video footage of ancient greeks slinging - I'll go by what has been proved to be practical.

   
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Thearos
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Re: How did the ancient sling ?
Reply #14 - Aug 11th, 2014 at 7:53am
 
And I'll go by what is explicitly attested in texts and images, in addition to my own 30+ years of slinging obsession.

I also hold, based on my own experience, exactly the contrary to what you write: fig-8 is more demanding than helo, and hence for a day long bombardment, I would select a nice, slow helo. It would also allow me to keep the sling "cocked" while I chose targets or wait for firing signals.
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