Every Legionaire a slinger?

Mrbsct

Ad Honorem
Jul 2013
2,629
USA
#1
I heard that every Roman Legionaire had a sling and was trained with it. Slingshot had Legion names acribed to this.

How true is this? After Cahrae, I do see this as being a major reason they adapted.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,453
Portugal
#3
I heard that every Roman Legionaire had a sling and was trained with it. Slingshot had Legion names acribed to this.

How true is this? After Cahrae, I do see this as being a major reason they adapted.
Where did you heard it? Sources are important in history.

Anyway the Roman Legionnaires fought too tight to use the sling. A sling needs space to be used. So for now I have strong doubts. Many cultures and tribes used the sling and both Rhodians and the Balearic slingers are often mentioned in the sources as good in their job. As Eric said, often the slingers were specialists and they did (fabricated) their own projectiles. But they could also be younger and poor tribesman without the age or money to have better weapons.

Obviously this doesn’t invalidate that some legionnaires could have slings. They are also good to hunt small animals, like rabbits, and so they could help in the diet.
 
Likes: Edratman
Oct 2015
805
Virginia
#4
Vegetius (for what its worth) says all legionaries were trained to use the sling. At least some were considering the inscriptions found by archaeologists on sling "bullets" unearthed in Italy, Scotland and elsewhere. Many of the projectiles are inscribed with roman numerals (legion numbers?), others have have the names of commanders or centurions. Some found near Perugia in Tuscany have rude comments in latin about Octavian, and about and Fulvia and Lucius Antonius (Marcus Antonius' wife and brother) who were besieged in the town in 41BCE.
 
Last edited:
Likes: Tulius

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,453
Portugal
#5
Vegetius (for what its worth) says all legionaries were trained to use the sling.
Well, that can be the source for Mrbsct sentence, and interpretation, but Vegetius also says that they should train to thrown the stones with their hands, and that some (1/3 or 1/4?) should train with the bow, that doesn’t mean that they all had or carried stones, bows and arrows.
 
Jul 2016
9,318
USA
#6
It takes quite some time of daily practice to get good enough with a sling to be any use in battle. Maybe there was a time well into the Principate when a legion, having a lot of down time, had legates that ordered they learn the sling, to keep them busy, maybe make them useful in things like sieges or a little more capable of defending themselves while foraging, and the like. Vegetius reads the one account and like he did with everything, generalized it into a statement saying the Ancient Romans trained all legionnaires to use the sling.

But it definitely wasn't done in Republican Rome. There was no spare time to train them, no reports of it, and Roman generals went out of their way to recruit professionals like Balearic Islanders, who were eager to serve, and extremely cheap since legend goes they preferred pay in form of wine and women.
 
Sep 2017
708
United States
#7
I've heard this too, from a not-so-trusty source:


Specifically around the 2-minute mark they talk about how legionaries supposedly carried them.

Though I never thought I'd see Prince Vultan shoot barbarian cutouts with a scorpion... Brian Blessed makes everything a hoot.
 
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
#8
It sounds entirely plausible. Cheap to produce, easy to carry and with a plentiful supply of free ammo. Not only does it give the Legion some added ranged weaponry, it was also useful for hunting for additional food. Ok they may not have used or needed them often militarily, but it would have made perfect sense to have the men carry one.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,074
#9
I've heard this too, some older war game lists allow 1/4 legionaries to be equipped with sling in the early imperial period we talking the serious ancient war game lists it would have been based on something., though I'm pretty certain it was dropped in the next version. So I would think there is soem evdience that some leginaires were equiped, but very doubtful effectiveness, you need fair bit of room, it's requiring moving out in front of the formation to get enugh space, only a small number can be deployed compared to teh forntage, and you are hardly ready to receive the enemy.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,453
Portugal
#10
I've heard this too, some older war game lists allow 1/4 legionaries to be equipped with sling in the early imperial period we talking the serious ancient war game lists it would have been based on something., though I'm pretty certain it was dropped in the next version. So I would think there is soem evdience that some leginaires were equiped, but very doubtful effectiveness, you need fair bit of room, it's requiring moving out in front of the formation to get enugh space, only a small number can be deployed compared to teh forntage, and you are hardly ready to receive the enemy.
The source is probably again Vegetius, but ¼ was trained with the Bow, all with the sling. Again training and using it widely in combat is differed. Even if the sling is quite easy to transport, but not all the stones were effective, as the video posted shows, the better projectiles were manufactured:

“THE USE OF THE BOW

A third or fourth of the youngest and fittest soldiers should also be exercised at the post with bows and arrows made for that purpose only. The masters for this branch must be chosen with care and must apply themselves diligently to teach the men to hold the bow in a proper position, to bend it with strength, to keep the left hand steady. to draw the right with skill, to direct both the attention and the eye to the object, and to take their aim with equal certainty either on foot or on horseback. But this is not to be acquired without great application, nor to be retained without daily exercise and practice.

The utility of good archers in action is evidently demonstrated by Cato in his treatise on military discipline. To the institution of a body of troops of this sort Claudius owed his victory over an enemy who, till that time, had constantly been superior to him. Scipio Africanus, before his battle with the Numantines, who had made a Roman army ignominiously pass under the yoke, thought he could have no likelihood of success except by mingling a number of select archers with every century.

THE SLING

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 armor, 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 incumbrance, 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.”

From: The Military Institutions of the Romans (De Re Militari)
 

Similar History Discussions