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Slinging in the Roman Period (Read 144 times)
Kick
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Slinging in the Roman Period
Dec 18th, 2021 at 5:41am
 
So for the next historical episode, we're thinking we would want to focus on the Roman period, so Repubkic and Empire. Does anyone have any cool sources or links to check our that we can talk about? There are some that†are pretty well known so anything maybe slightly more obscure would be really awesome. You'll get a shout out of course for anything you point us towards. Thanks!
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You are a great guy Kick but also slightly scary at times. - Morphy
"Nothing matters, but itís perhaps more comfortable to keep calm and not interfere with other people." - H.P. Lovecraft, in a letter to Frank Belknap Long, 7 October, 1923
 
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Re: Slinging in the Roman Period
Reply #1 - Dec 18th, 2021 at 9:13am
 
I found this great paper regarding Roman bullets found in Slovenia: http://av.zrc-sazu.si/pdf/62/AV_62_2011_Laharnar.pdf
The finds suggest that Roman slingers had a set of different weight bullets for different purposes or length slings. Some surprisingly heavy. Lead was not cheap, so they wouldn't have made such bullets if they didn't make up for it in effect. To perforate barbarian shields perhaps? 
It's also interesting if you compare Republic and Empire bullets, the latter are of a lower standard. (likely for cost and more expedient manufacture)
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Lewis.
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Re: Slinging in the Roman Period
Reply #2 - Dec 18th, 2021 at 9:56am
 
Few other things...
- whistling bullets found in Scotland
- Vegetius (Roman writer) mentions archers and staff-slingers practicing at straw bales at 200yds, and also says this in his book: De Re Militari:
"Recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones both with the hand and sling. The inhabitants of the Balearic Islands are said to have been the inventors of slings, and to have managed them with surprising dexterity, owing to the manner of bringing up their children. The children were not allowed to have their food by their mothers till they had first struck it with their sling. Soldiers, notwithstanding their defensive armour, are often more annoyed by the round stones from the sling than by all the arrows of the enemy. Stones kill without mangling the body, and the contusion is mortal without loss of blood. It is universally known the ancients employed slingers in all their engagements. There is the greater reason for instructing all troops, without exception, in this exercise, as the sling cannot be reckoned any encumbrance, and often is of the greatest service, especially when they are obliged to engage in stony places, to defend a mountain or an eminence, or to repulse an enemy at the attack of a castle or city."

- Livy mentions the use of the Kestros (dart-sling) against the Romans in 168BC
- In 54 B.C., as one of Caesarís officers, Lucius Cotta, was riding down the line and encouraging the front ranks, a Gallic slinger struck him in the face and severely injured him. To counter the threat posed by slingers in his conquest of Gaul, Caesar recruited Balearic slingers.

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Lewis.
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Re: Slinging in the Roman Period
Reply #3 - Dec 19th, 2021 at 3:56am
 
Awesome stuff! Thanks this is just the sort of stuff I was hoping would pop up. The officer being injured by a Gallic slinger is really interesting. I have heard that the Gauls didn't think much of ranged warfare, but Gaul was huge and around for a long time so... Cheesy
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You are a great guy Kick but also slightly scary at times. - Morphy
"Nothing matters, but itís perhaps more comfortable to keep calm and not interfere with other people." - H.P. Lovecraft, in a letter to Frank Belknap Long, 7 October, 1923
 
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slingbadger
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Re: Slinging in the Roman Period
Reply #4 - Dec 19th, 2021 at 6:10am
 
Like the rest of the army, the Roman slingers did everything in a uniform manner. They all fired at the same time, using the exact same style.
  If you believe the stories, a slinger was considered ready when he could hit a man sized target at 200 yards.
  Also, the slinger was considered the lowest tier of the Roman army, because the did not engage the enemy directly.
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The greatest of all the accomplishments of 20th cent. science has been the discovery of human ignorance† The main difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has it's limits.-Einstein† †I'm getting psychic as I get older. Or is that psychotic?
 
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Re: Slinging in the Roman Period
Reply #5 - Dec 19th, 2021 at 5:25pm
 
slingbadger wrote on Dec 19th, 2021 at 6:10am:
Like the rest of the army, the Roman slingers did everything in a uniform manner. They all fired at the same time, using the exact same style.
† If you believe the stories, a slinger was considered ready when he could hit a man sized target at 200 yards.
† Also, the slinger was considered the lowest tier of the Roman army, because the did not engage the enemy directly.

Things are not quite as black and white as that, especially during the Republic period. There were equipment requirements, but there was quite a bit of diversity of dress, even during the Empire (Especially amongst auxiliaries and mercenaries). We know that a soldiers armour could vary depending on how much they could afford, and the tunic colours weren't standardized.
You say slingers were held in low regard because they fought at a distance, but with ranged troops playing such a vital role on the battlefield, I find that hard to imagine. Less skilled users, perhaps. Master slingers/archers, no.
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Re: Slinging in the Roman Period
Reply #6 - Dec 19th, 2021 at 10:31pm
 
Thereís probably way too much to list.

There are a ton of sites with Roman bullets all over. My favorite are the bullets from Perusia (Perusine war), which had particularly crude inscriptions.

There are quite a few sources in project Goliath threads, hereís the tip of the iceberg.

Masada:
https://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1581270943

Retaliation against the Parthians:
https://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1526514555

Pompeii (during the social war):
https://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1501710440

Alesia:
https://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1493266907

Tuscany:
https://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1453743990

Against the Galatians (My personal favorite):
https://slinging.org/forum/YaBB.pl?num=1237391111

The last one being a direct attestation to sling bullets penetrating flesh, in the last paragraph. Not a fun day for the Galatians.
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