The Sling Was an Important Weapon in Ancient Times

Another reminder – I have a link at the bottom of the sunset picture with recommended resources.  Pastor Ed just told me that The Principle of the Path was the best book he has read, and he plans to do a sermon series based on the book.

The best known example of the use of a sling in ancient times is probably the slaying of Goliath by David.  But the sling played an important role in ancient warfare, including the use by both sides in the conquest of Spain by the Romans.  The sling predated the bow and arrow, and even after the introduction of the bow and arrow, the sling was often preferred because the sling had a greater range and the sling bullets were less visible in flight.  Here is a video from the History Channel on an investigation into the science of David killing Goliath with a sling.

Although stones were sometimes used, more common were bullets that were manufactured.  The first sling bullets were spherical, but later modified to a biconical shape, which increased the accuracy.  These sling bullets were usually made of lead, although sometimes hard clay in this shape was used.  In fact, many of the sling bullets that were found at Numancia, one of the last Celtiberian holdouts that fell to the Romans in 133 BC, were made of clay.  The Romans fought for Numancia for 10 years and had to surround the city and starve the residents out.  Many of the Numancians preferred to die by their own hand rather than surrender and become slaves to the Romans.  Some refer to Numancia as the Spanish Masada, but it would be more accurate to say that Masada is the Israeli Numancia, as Numancia came first.

The slingers from the Balearic Islands in Spain were renowned in ancient times as the best.  They would train from an early age, with the parents placing the children’s food in a tree, to be knocked down by the child in training, so that he could eat.  Appian noted that Hannibal sent 800 Balearic slingers to Africa, and that one of the strategies was to aim for the horses of the chariots rather than the chariot drivers.  It seems the wounded horses would turn on their own ranks.  Appian also noted that at Numancia there were both archers and slingers on the walls.  But it is not clear to me if that was on the walls of the city of Numancia or the Roman walls surrounding the city to starve out the residents, or both.

Polybios recorded that Hannibal had 8000 Balearic slingers march with him over the Alps to fight at the battle of Trasimene in 217 BC.  This would indicate the value placed on skilled slingers.  Polybios also says that the word Baleares in the native tongue means “slingers,” but came to mean the people in general and the islands as well.

Is there a link to Good Love?  Well, Ovid – the author of the Art of Love – compared Mercury being inflamed with love for Herse with the heating of a lead sling bullet from a Balearic slinger, heated by the friction of the air it rushes through.

Well, Luis is a modern day champion slinger from the Balearic Islands.  I have communicated with him through email, and he traveled to Israel to perform the test in that History channel program above.  Every year they have a competition for slingers.

But does modern scientific proof of the feasibility of a small David with a sling and single stone slaying a giant Goliath with armor really change anyone’s mind?  Some who comment to the History Channel video say that David didn’t really kill Goliath with the stone, only knock him out, then cut off his head.  The Bible makes it clear David killed Goliath with a stone from his sling.  But there is a basic truth about people, that was observed in ancient times by a Roman, a Greek, and an Israeli.

Julius Caesar said, “Men willingly believe that which they wish to.”  Demosthenes said, “Nothing is so easy as to deceive one’s self; for what we wish, we readily believe.”
And Jeremiah said, “Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.”  Is seeing really believing?  Not if you can’t really see.

Just a reminder – I started a contest back on May 20, and still have a shadow box with mounted lead sling bullet (bala de honda) from the second century BC for the prize.  And I uploaded an article I wrote in 2007 about Spanish treasure hunters, and the first big raid on illegal ones (link at bottom of sunset picture, top of page)

About Mark Gredler

I want to move from Good Love to Better Love, share it, and share the Best Love of God. I like ancient and medieval history, especially of Spain. I like photographing Spanish fiestas, and visiting Romanesque churches, from the 11th to 13th centuries. I enjoy traveling, seeing new places, meeting new friends, taking photographs of that, and want to write more about it all.
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2 Responses to The Sling Was an Important Weapon in Ancient Times

  1. Pingback: There Are Three Kinds of Lies | Good, Better, Best Love

  2. Pingback: First Aniversary of Good, Better, Best Love | Good, Better, Best Love

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