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  • #125882
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    I was looking through the Warlord Games site while the sale was on and saw a pack of Roman Legionary slingers. I have never heard of these troops and wonder how common they were if at all. There is, of course, no reason why a Legionary might be not skillful with a sling, or bow or any other missile weapon depending upon his upbringing and personal hunting preferences.

    The reason for asking is that I have a frame of the plastic legionaries that came “free” with a magazine and I have several hands with slings from some Dark Age figures. So I am considering adding a unit but would like to know how “historical” they might be.

    Anyone know or have an educated guess?

    #125884
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    Everyone always quotes Vegetius on this one – all Roman Legionaries were taught to use a sling.

    That said, I have never seen a Figure for a Roman in Banded Mail using a sling, and this may be a first. The quick answer is that for a open battle, telling your Heavy infantry to get their slings out is both perfectly feasible, and incredibly unlikely. It would be like telling your Tank Crewmen to park up their perfectly good tanks, get the rifles they were taught to use in Basic, and start shooting at the enemy.

    The one place where these would make perfect sense would be a siege. Sieges are a sling’s perfect home, and it’s widely suspected that the ‘other’ heavy infantry frequently modelled with slings – Assyrians- are siege-troops.

    In short….. they look odd, and for most games would be very very wrong. But they are possible, and if you do siege games, they would make a nice change!

     

     

     

    #125890
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    Thanks, I had not realised that there was any source, though Vegetius was writing in the early 5th Century.  The sling was used for hunting by the common folk so not unreasonable to assume that Legionaries may well use it to add some meat or fowl to the cooking pot.  As you say sieges or troops manning barricades/defence works against an enemy.  I may as well add a few to my collection since I have the bits.

    #125903
    Avatar photoThorsten Frank
    Participant

    Thanks, I had not realised that there was any source, though Vegetius was writing in the early 5th Century.

    That´s quite an argument FOR slingers in this periond. Quite a percentage of the troops at this time came from regions using the sling frequently (only think of the Germanic people) and it´s quite possible that they adopted some of their tactics.

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    #125921
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    That´s quite an argument FOR slingers in this periond. Quite a percentage of the troops at this time came from regions using the sling frequently (only think of the Germanic people) and it´s quite possible that they adopted some of their tactics.

    Interestingly I was referred to a couple of archaeological papers on this subject on another forum.  From these it appears Roman slingers used 3 different types of sling (each for a different range band – one in hand, one around waist and one around head) and several different types of lead slingshot.  What the academics do not say is whether they were used by legionaries or auxiliaries.  They do say that the “finds” are mainly up to the Augustan/Trajanic armies then disappear and return later on (Vegetius 5th Century).  The caveat is, of course, that these papers are based on what has been found in a particular camp/battlefield and represent a snapshot.  I am also aware that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    Another interesting thing is that cavalry were also trained in the use of the sling.  Though no mention to mounted slingers in combat is made.

    Re-enator slingers have also been in touch and they say that it does not take a lot of space or training to use a sling against a massed target at relatively short range (say 30-40 metres).

    So there is at least tenuous evidence that legionaries used the sling, probably on patrols/ambushes, in defending or attacking fortifications.

    Based on this and having the parts I will make some.

     

    #125922
    Avatar photoThorsten Frank
    Participant

    @Alan Hamilton: That´s interesting! Could you give me a link to the papers? Or are they for registered only?

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    #125924
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    I only saved one topic discussion https://www.romanarmytalk.com/rat/showthread.php?tid=22532

    The paper saved https://www.academia.edu/4107834/Early_Roman_military_equipment_from_the_fortified_settlements_in_the_Notranjska_region_SW_Slovenia_

    Also from another respondent

    It will be perfect for skirmish games, as that’s largely how it was used.

    Vegetius seems to imply that the sling was used as the projectile was almost impossible to dodge in a skirmish compared to an arrow or a thrown spear. They were trained to be pretty accurate and had serious stopping power…
    Roman slingers would have exacted a heavy toll. Recent experiments conducted in Germany showed that a 50-gram Roman bullet hurled by a trained slinger has only slightly less stopping power than a .44 magnum cartridge fired from a handgun. Other tests revealed that a trained slinger could hit a target smaller than a human being from 130 yards away.
    They also played a role as a psychological weapon with examples found with drilled holes in the lead bullets to produce a wailing sound when fired, and also graffiti carved into them, sometimes just to note the unit commander or formation, a devotion to a god, or something less subtle like
    “Attack Octavian’s arsehole”… Roman Legionaries seemed to have liked a selection of indecent comments on their lead bullets.

    #125926
    Avatar photoThorsten Frank
    Participant

    Thank you, that was quite an interesting read.

    "In strange grammar this one writes" - Master Yoda

    #125940
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    This equivalence to ‘a .44 Magnum round’ – as it was reported in numerous headlines surprised me. The apparent source of this actually said it had ‘nearly’ as much stopping power – a different thing but still a bit odd.

    The National Geographic report in 2017 on the finds at Burnswark near Edinburgh seems to be the origin of the quote and does indeed say German experiments show that….

    It doesn’t source the experiment however, and while I am sure it happened I haven’t found the original (I haven’t looked that hard).

    It does however sound a bit of a ‘gee whiz!’ bit of ‘science to me.

    You can measure ‘stopping power’ in different ways and unless we know what the German experiment used and what it consisted of I’d treat these claims with a pinch of salt.

    Google Josserand Energy Delivery Index (JEDI) and Hatcher’s Theory of Relative Stopping Power if you want to see some figures for handguns.

    Plugging figures in for slings may be difficult depending on the availability of reliable data for actual, vice the imagined, sling performance but could be done.

    Ancient Sling

    The above is worth a look and is very pro sling – again claiming at least equal performance to handguns, but again I suspect a bit of bias in some of the assumptions and guesstimated input values.

    With a .44 Magnum muzzle velocity of 1470 feet per second and a JEDI value of 147 I’d say you are going to be looking at some special circumstances for a slinger to beat it.

    Given the likely length of the sling needed and the bullet weight to produce an equivalence (50 gram) I think it unlikely that legionaries dressed as the Warlord figures ever used slings in combat. You’d break the formation fairly dramatically and what was the point of all those mercenary and auxiliary slingers if legionaries were doing the job?

    Vegetius was writing a portmateau’ how to’ for an Emperor and a cry to Make Rome Great Again. He was harking back to Republican legions of Velites Hastati and Triarii as the best, but he is all over the place with some of his organisation and tactics. I think it highly unlikely 1st century AD legionaries used slings much in combat, if ever.

    But if you like the idea, nobody can prove they didn’t!

    #125941
    Avatar photoSane Max
    Participant

    I make and use my own slings, oddly my Lead Sling Bullets are exactly 50 grams.

    a LOT of bӣ%*X is talked about slings. They do not have the same stopping power as a 44 magnum. Unless the target rolled and fell over on the sling bullet?

    They are an effective thing, but they stopped being used for a simple reason – gunpowder weapons did what they do, but a lot better.

    Slinging.org are lovely folk, but they do tend to be a bit ‘pro-sling’.  Just a bit…. members range from the serious type to the ‘Kid who just got some nunchuks’ type.

    The three-sling folk referenced above is from Polybius, and refers to Balearic slingers – auxiliaries in other words.

    I have never used a sling on a horse, but can see no reason why you couldn’t. Power and range would be very adversely effected though. I have slung sitting and kneeling, and it’s not hard, but is much weaker as a lot of the power comes from the legs. The most common method of use is pretty much the same as throwing a baseball, juts with a much longer arm 🙂 . Can you throw a baseball sat on a horse?

     

    Re-enator slingers have also been in touch and they say that it does not take a lot of space or training to use a sling against a massed target at relatively short range (say 30-40 metres).

    The issues I have had with learning to sling, all done on my own, may be instructive

    – Sling power is mainly a function of arm power times sling length. Longer slings are more powerful.

    • Longer slings are less accurate than short ones.
    • I spend my day typing and making ‘phone calls rather than wrassling sheep or chopping wood, so I am hardly representative of the typical ancient slinger
    • I am dyspraxic.

    So. I was shown how to use a bow when I was a kid. Once shown, and after a day, I could at least get the arrow to go vaguely where I wanted it to, and to a fair distance.  When I started slinging, I was fortunate after a week to be able to hit a brick wall at 30 yards.

    I showed a passer-by how to use a sling once. It immediately made clear to me that they are a skirmish weapon.  you don’t want to use a sling within 2 sling lengths of someone else using one, unless you and he spend a few days training together, or you want a full sling-pouch to the back of the head occasionally. You move a little when slinging – a step back, a step forward at the throw. Archers can group far more tightly than slingers can. The armoured Assyrians slinging in ranks from the British Museum carvings are either the ultimate trained experts, or more likely an artist making the Great King’s lads look terrifying.

    Sling bullets are stopped quite easily by any sort of armour, but the concussion of the impact would be very effective against someone in Linothorax for example. I have seen damage to ballistic Gel that was covered in mail for a test shot.

    There are slings and slings. my 50g bullets are on the light side, If I was buying a new bullet-mould I would get 75g. But I have slung lead bullets the size of a hen’s egg (guess what I used for a mould?) and that could smash breezeblocks at 60 feet, and my favourite ammo for a staff-sling is half a housebrick. Like I say, a long sling is far more powerful than a short one – a sling is a lever.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    #125954
    Avatar photoGuy Farrish
    Participant

    Sounds about right

    #126241
    Avatar photoR Flagg
    Participant

    The miniatures are silly and the product of people who’ve grown up with self loading weapons. You have Romans holding a shield and javelins in one hand so how do they load the stone into the sling?

    How do they even hold the javelins like that behind the shield given the horizontal grip or were the javelins somehow held with the thumb?

    The other thing here is that why is the sling being used when the Roman is holding javelins?

    They’d look much better with nothing in the left hand.

    #126243
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    The miniatures are silly and the product of people who’ve grown up with self loading weapons.

    They may be fanciful in pose but so are the poses of plenty other wargames figures. And the old question of whether your models should be in “campaign dress” or “full dress” or “working dress” or whatever.

    You have Romans holding a shield and javelins in one hand so how do they load the stone into the sling? How do they even hold the javelins like that behind the shield given the horizontal grip or were the javelins somehow held with the thumb?

    I would agree that carrying a scutum and one or two pila in the left hand would be difficult – read http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.30781.html for an informative discussion how how it may have been done.

    The other thing here is that why is the sling being used when the Roman is holding javelins?

    To refute the possibility by saying “why have a sling and a javelin” is like refuting that a modern soldier would not carry a pistol or grenades because he has a rifle.

    They’d look much better with nothing in the left hand.

    Agreed but I think I’d like a bag of slingshot on the left hip.  Probably too small to depict a slingshot in the left hand.

    I have spent some time in past few days researching this topic (not thoroughly or deeply I admit) – Vegetius says that all Legionaries were trained to use the sling.  Polybius says the legionaries carried two pila  Caesar in his De Bello Gallico (book VII, battle fought by Labienus near the Seine) he mentions the use of two and in other places. I am sure that the sling armed legionary could, as I said previously, leave his shield and pila at the rear of his unit, in a cart or with another legionary, he might even, shock horror, have put his shield and pila on the ground to use his sling.

    Here we have to consider what the job of a legionary at this time was. Large scale battles where they fight as a Legion in formation using the traditional scutum, gladius, pilum combination were few. Most engagements were small scale throughout the history of the empire. The Legionaries main activities were patrolling, garrisoning, guarding, collecting taxes, preventing raids and acting as an armed police force along the borders. If a century was sent to deal with some 20 bandits in Germania Superior the scutum and a pilum was probably not as much use as in the battle line so it makes perfect sense to have some (most?) of the legionaries armed with slings (with or without pila). These chaps might even be given a flat “barbarian” shield explaining some depictions of Early Imperial legionaries with flat shields. The small scale  of the usual fighting they had to do against Germanic and Celtic raiding parties, against rebels, in preemptive strikes across the borders. on punitive expeditions probably meant that the equipment carried varied according to the mission – just as with modern soldiers.  Unfortunately the ancient chroniclers are not consistent in their terminology which does make things difficult for us.  Add to that we only have a very few original sources and it is easy to become confused.

    During the Republican period the Antesignani (=in front of the Signa, i.e. bands fighting in loose formation in front of the heavy infantry) the velites were sometimes reinforced by some of the Hastati armed with javelins.   So a drill for doing this probably existed.

    Anyway, I’m not going to use those particular figures.  The games we play are generally of the more common low intensity type rather than pitched battles.  So I’m going to convert about 10 plastic ones that came with the wargames magazine and probably give them shields slung on their backs as they would on the march.  Though I’m fairly sure that the shields would be dropped off so they did not get in the way.

    #134501
    Avatar photoThaddeus Blanchette
    Participant

    In my 3mm legion set up, I presume that every legion has some small group of skirmishers drawn from the ranks: the Antesignani or their successors or scouts. Whatever.

    I presume that a lot if not all Roman soldiers would be trained with a sling, if only for hunting during peace time to supplement rations. It is an easy piece of kit to make, carry and use, and can be useful in sieges en masse.

    I can easily imagine Roman commanders drawing off the best slinger for special duty and scouting or skirmishing missions. I very much doubt they’d be equipped like regular legionaires, though.

    My legions are set up for Hail Ceasar and have 9 regular cohorts and one large veteran cohort. They also have a unit of horse (I know it probably should be a small unit, but hey: my army), a small unit of javelin armed skirmishers, two small units of slingers and two units of ballista.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #134504
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    Thanks.  My own “legion” now has a unit that has 50% slingers.

    After I made the figures it struck me that any slinger legionaries actually deployed may well have operated in pairs a bit like skirmishers of later periods.  One observing and shooting (scutum slung or on the ground) and one protecting with his shield (or both shields?) and with both soldiers pila.  Why I did not think of it before as all through my military training the idea of supports while moving was emphasised.

    Sometime I may make another unit of “pairs”.

    #135149
    Avatar photoR Flagg
    Participant

    A lot of it is speculation which from my point of view is half the fun.

    #135152
    Avatar photoPatrice
    Participant

    Nice unit!

    slinger legionaries actually deployed may well have operated in pairs a bit like skirmishers of later periods. One observing and shooting (scutum slung or on the ground) and one protecting with his shield (or both shields?) and with both soldiers pila.

    I am doubtful about skirmishers really deployed by twos at a large distance from others, before it became really useful because of black powder musket fire (from the mid-18th C. onwards). It needs a lot of special training. In previous times I would rather imagine them in a loose order. Also a slinger cannot have much protection from the shields (as a crossbowman would have) as he must do large gestures to use his sling. But I’m not saying you couldn’t send two guys ahead, if the centurion wants to; one watching around and the other shooting.

    http://www.argad-bzh.fr/argad/en.html
    https://www.anargader.net/

    #135164
    Avatar photoAlan Hamilton
    Participant

    I am doubtful about skirmishers really deployed by twos at a large distance from others, before it became really useful because of black powder musket fire (from the mid-18th C. onwards). It needs a lot of special training. In previous times I would rather imagine them in a loose order. Also a slinger cannot have much protection from the shields (as a crossbowman would have) as he must do large gestures to use his sling. But I’m not saying you couldn’t send two guys ahead, if the centurion wants to; one watching around and the other shooting.

    I would agree that it is unlikely in a battle line but in a patrol operation or skirmish who knows?  But then it good to question and think up alternative ways of employing forces as, no doubt, did the ancients.

     

    #135167
    Avatar photoMike Headden
    Participant

    Never used a sling … or a scutum or pila come to that! … so to those who have, would this work?

    In suitable ground, plant pila butt down, prop scutum upright against them.

    In case of return fire, stand behind shield to cover chest, lower body and legs. Rev sling up to full power, step sideways, loose, step back, reload. Rinse and repeat until enemy retire or superior force causes you to recover pila and scutum and hastily return to main body.

    Effectively using scutum and pila as later crossbowmen used pavises?

    “Possible but unproven” or “Never gonna work, matey”?

    Thoughts, gentlemen?

     

     

    There are 100 types of people in the world, those who understand binary and those who can work from incomplete data

    #135178
    Avatar photoThaddeus Blanchette
    Participant

    Again, I doubt that legionaries were EXPERT slingers, but trained enough to toss stones down range en masse? Hell, I can do that with a sling. So potentially used en masse in sieges. And, again, legionaries had lots of down time where knowing how to use a sling would be great in supplementing rations. So out of five thousand men, having a couple hundred who are expert enough to skirmish would probably be a thing, and using them as light, skirmishing antessori (sp?) would be a possibility.

    Also, again, they’d be very much like musket armed skirmishers: tossing rocks downrange at massed bodies of troops, 4-16 deep…? You don’t need to be Balearic quality for that.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #135179
    Avatar photoThaddeus Blanchette
    Participant

    Using a sling inexpertly and en masse is a lot easier than using a bow inexpertly and en masse. You don’t have to be able to kill a rabbit at two hundred meters if all you want to do is cause some disorganization in a pike block.

    But I really don’t think you could be doing even that with a big, heavy shield on your arm. Maybe slung over your shoulder?

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

    #135180
    Avatar photoThaddeus Blanchette
    Participant

    Check out some youtube “how to” videos on slinging. You can pick up the basics — enough to get the stone downrange and not be a danger to yourself or your comrades — in an afternoon.

    When people think “slingers”, they immediately glom onto the legendary Balearics and their ability to hit a flea on a hare’s ass at five hundred paces. But the sling was probably a weapon almost every rural boy knew how to use to one degree or another.

    A bit like today’s slingshot: pretty much every American kid has owned one at one point or knew someone who did. I can still operate a wrist rocket, for example. If all I have to do is throw shot into (just for comparison’ sake – not advocating this, mind you) a line of riot police to piss them off, I can do that. Just don’t ask me to kill any pigeons for the dinner pot.

    We get slapped around, but we have a good time!

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