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- Museo Arqueológico Nacional de España
- ⚔️Slingers in the Roman Army⚔️
Regardless of the popularity of the bow in depictions of Roman missile tactics, the importance of the slinger in ancient warfare can not be ignored. As I see it from all major sources, the Romans did not have the idea of any sort of “dedicated slinger unit” incorporated into the legions (at least in the periods I have studied- Monarchy down through to the early Principate). The sling clearly was used in some capacity, however, because we find evidence of sling bullets from Roman military engagements in the archaeological record, and we find descriptions of auxiliary slinger units hired from the Balearic Isles by, say, Marcus Antonius’ Parthian campaign. We see Vegetius writing in the 4th century and saying that a legionary during the empire was trained to use the sling. While Vegetius is a questionable source, I see no reason to doubt him whatsoever in this point. Having practiced slinging myself for a few months now, I can say with certainty that slings are (and were) cheap to make, cheap to operate, and incredibly lightweight (in some instances I have even used them as a belt over a tunic, or a headband.) They also pack quite a punch; when the Spanish invaded South America in the 16th century, they were not afraid of paddles stuffed with obsidian blades, but they did fear the Aztec slinger. Besides this, a sling is far easier to field than a bow in my opinion, and can be used as a secondary or long range missile weapon in almost any circumstance; perhaps it was not orthodox or glorious, but it worked, and I see no reason to doubt Vegetius when he says that “recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones with the hand and with the sling.”
1. A slinger depicted on Trajan’s Column.
2. A recreated sling and bullets in the Madrid Archaeological Museum.
3. An example of slinging, performed by myself using a paracord sling.
4. A presumed stone sling bullet from Cuenca, Spain.
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