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Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction? (Read 2280 times)
TheArchaicPeltast
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Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
May 26th, 2018 at 6:39am
 
I've been doing a lot of research on the Anabasis for a future project, and had been fixated on the section reguarding the Rhodian Slingers (Anabasis III.iii-iv).

I think the range and ability of the slingers have been mentioned quite a lot on the forum, but Xenophon does indeed talk about the making of these slings.
Specifically: "pay anyone who is willing to plait new ones" (Anab. III.iii.18)
The word used here for plait is πλέκω(pleko), which seems to specifically mean plait, rather than "fabricate" as some other translations have used. (I am no expert in Greek or ancient Greek, so any input here is appreciated)

He also mentions:
ηὑρίσκετο δὲ καὶ νεῦρα πολλὰ ἐν ταῖς κώμαις καὶ μόλυβδος, ὥστε χρῆσθαι εἰς τὰς σφενδόνας
"In the villages, furthermore, the Greeks found gut in abundance and lead for the use of their slingers." (Anab. III.iv.17)
While it is obvious what the lead was used for, it is not the case for the "gut".

The word used here is νευρά(neura).
There are several possible translations:
Some translations directly translate neura into bowstring, with the intention that they are used for the archers rather than the slingers. But a cursory look into the Greek suggests that the word used, neura, is different than νευρή(bowstring), or νεῦρον(sinew/tendon). But I haven't found a translation that directly translates neura to "gut". However, neura seems to also have been used in the context of stringed instruments, which we know used processed animal gut for strings.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/morph?l=neu%3Dra&la=greek&can=neu%3Dra0&prio...\

Given that Xenophon is a military man, and that his records of rhodian sling making and performance is reasonably accurate, could we reconstruct rhodian slings and slinging ability?
I'm guessing the sling was a braided long sling made of either sinew or gut, and given it's ability with slinging lead, would've been a pouched sling?
Anyone have experience with such materials?
Gut can be surprisingly inexpensive:
http://nativeway.safewebshop.com/twisted_gut_hafting_9mm.html

Hopefully some of you found this helpful.
Looking forward towards your input!!! Grin
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johan
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #1 - May 26th, 2018 at 10:15am
 
In modern greek :
πλέκω(pleko) = braid,plait,knit
definitely not twist into rope

νεύρα =nerves (plural),νεῦρον(singular) , you see it in descriptions of instrument cords, bowstrings,cables,strings,tendon and other, it is a very general term . It could be gut or sinew, i've never seen a gut cord and how pliable/strong it is so I would say it's probably tendons.

I don't think there are enough details to reconstruct a sling of Xenophon's army.
Pouched sling or not? With what? Weaved pouch or leather? Length and thickness of sling cords? dimensions of pouch? Knots and loops? Treatment of the materials?
wouldn't every slinger/braider have his own preferred design?
I wonder if they had discovered any unconventional sling design like Y-sling/triangular pouch.
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Bill Skinner
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #2 - May 26th, 2018 at 11:36am
 
Look at the sling pouch on contemporary coins for an idea of what a pouch from that time could look like.

As far as gut, down here in the lower, really humid,  southeastern US, it was preferred by the Native Americans for bowstrings because unlike sinew, it didn't stretch once twisted into a cord.

As far as length, again, look at either the coins or the vases for an idea of length.  There are lots of representations of slingers. 

Although, my personal opinion is that the cord would be wrapped around the hand with a knot in the release end if they were using gut, it can be surprisingly narrow if you haven't had any experience with it.
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TheArchaicPeltast
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #3 - May 26th, 2018 at 10:56pm
 
Thanks Parmenion! Clarifies a lot of things with the Greek!
Given that gut was used as bowstring, I believe it could be strong enough for a sling, at least comparable to sinew. Like Mr. Skinner stated above!
johan wrote on May 26th, 2018 at 10:15am:
Pouched sling or not? With what? Weaved pouch or leather? Length and thickness of sling cords? dimensions of pouch? Knots and loops? Treatment of the materials?
wouldn't every slinger/braider have his own preferred design?
I wonder if they had discovered any unconventional sling design like Y-sling/triangular pouch.

I guess we could extrapolate?
Would a pouched sling be better at slinging lead bullets than a split pouch?
I'm assuming Xenophon meant braiding, so such a sling would at least be made of braided gut or sinew?
If several designs were made, and a few could reach the ranges Xenophon mentioned, we could have some strong candidates.
Quote:
As far as length, again, look at either the coins or the vases for an idea of length.  There are lots of representations of slingers.

Great Idea! just wished there was a database for images of Hellenic slingers...
Bill Skinner wrote on May 26th, 2018 at 11:36am:
Although, my personal opinion is that the cord would be wrapped around the hand with a knot in the release end if they were using gut, it can be surprisingly narrow if you haven't had any experience with it.   

I guess braiding the gut cords could make for a more substantial sling?
I wonder if the gut was plaited when wet or dry and whether that made a difference.
Hopefully a few of us have enough money, time, and experience to see which designs were more likely.
Darn, I should use this for a thesis  Grin

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TheArchaicPeltast
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #4 - May 27th, 2018 at 12:15am
 
Was thinking something like this?
https://web.archive.org/web/20120804011507/http://slinging.org:80/index.php?page...
With nylon substituted for gut or sinew?
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #5 - May 27th, 2018 at 4:45am
 
Quote:
πλέκω(pleko) = braid,plait,knit
definitely not twist into rope

sorry i was a little hasty.
to describe the construction of twisted rope in modern greek: τυλίγω=wrap and στρίβω=twist is what most would use but it would be very specific then searched the web how they describe it and saw some descriptions being more general which used "πλεκω" to describe "twist into rope".
so it's more general than i thought.


another idea for the materials.
sinew seems to be stretchy as bill skinner said. http://ballista.wikia.com/wiki/Case_study:_comparison_of_elasticity_of_sinew_and... ,http://ballista.wikia.com/wiki/Spring_cord_materials similar to nylon.

gut i have no idea, seems interesting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhHD7-2j5sI

maybe they used both materials and different methods just what they found and what was easy to make.

if gut has little stretch then thin twisted gut cord(?) and since sinew is stretchy, thicker braided sinew? (to avoid twist of the cords which stretched while slinging)
and i would prefer a pouch for small projectiles.
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #6 - May 27th, 2018 at 6:30am
 
johan wrote on May 27th, 2018 at 4:45am:
maybe they used both materials and different methods just what they found and what was easy to make.

if gut has little stretch then thin twisted gut cord(?) and since sinew is stretchy, thicker braided sinew? (to avoid twist of the cords which stretched while slinging)
and i would prefer a pouch for small projectiles.

Great! A nice starting point! I think gut cord and sinew(at least the artificial stuff) is inexpensive enough to experiment with.
Definitely agree with the pouch especially when it comes to lead glandes.

It seems long slings were necessary for ranges of 200-400 meters. Am I right about this?

Sadly, my abysmal sling making abilities make me hesitant to waste materials.
If anyone out there is experienced in braiding/twisting sinew or gut cord and making long slings, I'd be happy to provide some of the materials.
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #7 - May 27th, 2018 at 10:22am
 
Artificial sinew is wax coated, parallel strand nylon and it stretches like crazy if you attempt to make a bowstring out of it.  It used to be used to tie electrical wires into bundles or cables.

I would actually go with twisted gut or sinew, braided doesn't work so well, the fibers cut against each other.  And I have no idea what would happen to a mixed braid or twist of a stretch and non stretch but I don't think it will work all that well.  I know in bowstrings that the non stretch ends up doing all the work and you end up with a string that is only as strong as the non stretch strands.  And the non stretch strands tend to rub against the stretch strands and you end up with a string that eats itself.

Will artificial sinew twist up and make a good cord for a sling?  Not a clue.  I suspect that it will depend on how many strands the cord has in it, if you get enough and don't throw excessively heavy glands, like half a brick, you shouldn't have a problem with sane weight glands.  Grin

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TheArchaicPeltast
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #8 - May 27th, 2018 at 3:00pm
 
Bill Skinner wrote on May 27th, 2018 at 10:22am:
Artificial sinew is wax coated, parallel strand nylon and it stretches like crazy if you attempt to make a bowstring out of it.  It used to be used to tie electrical wires into bundles or cables. 

Darn I gotta get some better bowstrings then...  Grin

Bill Skinner wrote on May 27th, 2018 at 10:22am:
I would actually go with twisted gut or sinew, braided doesn't work so well, the fibers cut against each other.

Interesting point, did not think of that. I assume the process would not be unlike making a bowstring.  Smiley
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #9 - May 28th, 2018 at 10:31pm
 
I agree that "neura" must be sinews. Strabo says that the Baleares make slings of rushes, hair, or sinews.

http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/3E*.html

The verb πλέκω is, primarily, "braid" in ancient Greek-- with the proviso that the verb is in fact also used for rope-making

http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aent...

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TheArchaicPeltast
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #10 - May 29th, 2018 at 2:50pm
 
Thearos wrote on May 28th, 2018 at 10:31pm:
The verb πλέκω is, primarily, "braid" in ancient Greek-- with the proviso that the verb is in fact also used for rope-making

I wonder what would work better for a sling? I understand Bill wrote earlier: Quote:
I would actually go with twisted gut or sinew, braided doesn't work so well, the fibers cut against each other.

I think it's possible that the Greeks repurposed materials, likely bowstrings, possibly instrument strings, or sinew lying around prepared for use by the locals
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #11 - May 29th, 2018 at 10:15pm
 
I think it means to braid or to plait. They found sinews and braided slings.
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #12 - Jul 10th, 2018 at 3:42pm
 
Interesting Reconstruction theory, tried it out on the weekend. I used natural gut tennis strings, according to a test I found they should stand 20-30 kg. Leather Pouch diamond shape 12x5 cm, leather finger loop and Leather tab release. Really fast and silent sling. Around ten shots with around sixty gram weight. No string tore. One string got a nick in the beginning, which was a bit annoying when reloading, as the strings are quite stiff, but did not tear in this spot also. Achieved good distance, far more than 100m. Under the bottom line for this test - gut works as string Smiley
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #13 - Jul 10th, 2018 at 3:47pm
 
Could you post a picture? I'd be interested in seeing it for sure.
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Re: Xenophon and Rhodian Slingers: Analysis and Attempting reconstruction?
Reply #14 - Jul 10th, 2018 at 11:25pm
 
Gut, rawhide, sinew will all work as cords. Sinew is not necessarily stretchy under the conditions observed in slinging. The amount of tension on a sling cord  is nothing compared to that seen when used as a bow string. That's assuming the cord is a reasonable diameter.

Rawhide, sinew and gut can be reverse twisted and straightened by hanging with a weight until dry. After dried enough tension can be applied to induce a set after which the cord will have negligible stretch. This won't degrade the strength of the cord.

Is it possible that neura refers to nerves? If I remember correctly some cultures would use the sciatic nerve of large animals to make bowstrings. Neura seems to be the same root word as neural possibly? Such as neural tissue. Just a thought.
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