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Sling


A sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone, clay, or lead "sling-bullet". It is also known as the shepherd's sling. Someone who specializes in using slings is called a slinger. A sling has a small cradle or pouch in the middle of two lengths of cord. The sling stone is placed in the pouch. The middle finger or thumb is placed through a loop on the end of one cord, and a tab at the end of the other cord is placed between the thumb and forefinger. The sling is swung in an arc, and the tab released at a precise moment. This frees the projectile to fly to the target. The sling essentially works by extending the length of a human arm, thus allowing stones to be thrown much farther than they could be by hand.

The sling is mentioned in the Bible, which provides what is believed to be the oldest textual reference to a sling in the Book of Judges, 20:16. This text was thought to have been written about 6th century B.C., but refers to events several centuries earlier. The Bible provides a famous slinger account, the battle between David and Goliath from the First Book of Samuel 17:34-36, probably written in the 7th or 6th century BC, describing events having occurred around the 10th century BC. The sling, easily produced, was the weapon of choice for shepherds fending off animals. Due to this, the sling was a commonly used weapon by the Israelite militia.[17] Goliath was a tall, well equipped and experienced warrior. In this account, the shepherd David convinces Saul to let him fight Goliath on behalf of the Israelites. Unarmoured and equipped only with a sling, 5 smooth rocks, and his staff; David defeats the champion Goliath with a well-aimed shot to the head. Use of the sling is also mentioned in Second Kings 3:25, First Chronicles 12:2, and Second Chronicles 26:14 to further illustrate Israelite use.

The sling is mentioned by Homer and by other Greek authors. Xenophon in his history of the retreat of the Ten Thousand, 401 B.C., relates that the Greeks suffered severely from the slingers in the army of Artaxerxes II of Persia, while they themselves had neither cavalry nor slingers, and were unable to reach the enemy with their arrows and javelins. This deficiency was rectified when a company of 200 Rhodians was formed to use of leaden sling-bullets. They were able, says Xenophon, to project their missiles twice as far as the Persian slingers, who used large stones.

Various ancient peoples enjoyed a reputation for skill with the sling. Thucydides mentions the Acarnanians. Livy refers to the inhabitants of three Greek cities on the northern coast of the Peloponnesus as expert slingers. Livy also mentions the most famous of ancient skillful slingers: the people of the Balearic Islands. Of the Balearic people, Strabo writes: And their training in the use of slings used to be such, from childhood up, that they would not so much as give bread to their children unless they first hit it with the sling.

According to the contemporary report of Vegatius, Republican slingers had an accurate range of up to six hundred feet. According to a description by Procopius, the sling had an effective range further than a Hun bow and arrow. In his book Wars of Justinian, he recorded the felling of a Hun warrior by a slinger: Now one of the Huns who was fighting before the others was making more trouble for the Romans than all the rest. And some rustic made a good shot and hit him on the right knee with a sling, and he immediately fell headlong from his horse to the ground, which thing heartened the Romans still more.

The best sling ammunition was cast from lead. Leaden sling bullets were widely used in the Greek and Roman world. For a given mass, lead, being very dense, offered the minimum size and therefore minimum air resistance. In addition, leaden sling-bullets were small and difficult to see in flight. In some cases, the lead would be cast in a simple open mold made by pushing a finger, thumb, or sharpened stick into sand and pouring molten metal into the hole, the flat top end could later be carved to a matching shape. However, sling-bullets were more frequently cast in two part molds. Such sling-bullets come in a number of shapes including an ellipsoidal form closely resembling an acorn Ė this could be the origin of the Latin word for a lead sling-bullet: glandes plumbeae (literally leaden acorns) or simply glandes (meaning acorns, singular glans). Other shapes include spherical and (by far the most common) biconical, which resembles the shape of the shell of an almond nut or a flattened American football. The ancients do not seem to have taken advantage of the manufacturing process to produce consistent results; leaden sling-bullets vary significantly. The reason why the almond shape was favoured is not clear: it is possible that there is some aerodynamic advantage, but it seems equally likely that there is some more prosaic reason, such as the shape being easy to extract from a mould, or the fact that it will rest in a sling cradle with little danger of rolling out. Almond shaped leaden sling-bullets were typically about 35 millimeters (1.4 in) long and about 20 millimeters (0.79 in) wide. Sometimes symbols or writings were molded on the side. A thunderbolt, a snake, a scorpion, or others symbols indicating how it might strike without warning were popular. Writing might include the name of the military unit or commander, or was sometimes more imaginative, such as, "Take this," "Ouch," "Catch," or even "For Pompey's backside."


Lead sling bullet; 65.2 g, 43.9 mm long, almond shape, ornamented with a scorpion.



Roman lead sling "stone" or "bullet", weight 54.49g, thunderbolt on one side, no markings on the other side; molds offset; ex-Goodman collection with ticket.


Roman lead sling "stone" or "bullet", weight 30.12g, thunderbolt on one side, uncertain marking on the other side; several old round tags, one says "Found outskirts of Rome," one is ex-Goodman collection ticket.



Lead sling bullet; 50.6 g, 35.5 mm long, almond shape, appears to be ornamented with an archer