RRtK for Thucydides, Part 4

Spartan slingers attacking Mantinean hoplites
Spartan slingers attacking Mantinean hoplites

SLINGERS

I’ve finished the slingers for this project.  The metal figures are from Black Tree Designs and the plastic figures are from Victrix.  When looking at figures for this period, you discover that not all manufacturers make slingers.  I think there are two reasons for this, one may be historical and the other driven by marketability.

Historically, there were never large numbers of slingers available, so many war game rules covering the era of hoplite battles tend to lump slingers, archers, and javelins together.  This means the typical wargamer doesn’t need very many slingers if he or she chooses to include them at all.  Since not many slingers are needed, the manufacturer may choose to offer only a small number of poses.  Figures of slingers, more than any other troop type tend to suffer from breakage.  In a pack of figures there is usually at least one where the sling has snapped off from the figure.

Spartan slingers - the figure with the helmet is from Black Tree Designs, the others from Victrix
Spartan slingers – the figure with the helmet is from Black Tree Designs, the others from Victrix

Slingers: Reality and Myth

When we look at how slingers are portrayed in art and film, we often look at a depiction of humble shepherds who spend their lives outdoors protecting the flocks entrusted to their care.  We often think that the slingers attached to the Greek armies during the classical period as being poor members of their society who can not afford the panoply of a hoplite.  Actually, the slinger was among the first mercenaries.

A hoplite served in the army as part of his duty to the polis, the city-state.  There were poorer citizens within the polis who did fill some of the ranks of the light troops.  However, the Peloponnesian War saw a dramatic increase of specialized light troops from the edges of the Greek world,  Thracian peltasts, slingers from Rhodes, Cretan archers, and horse archers from Scythia as examples.  These men did not sign up because they believed in democracy or that they supported oligarchy.  These men signed for the pay.  The typical army had consisted of about 20% light troops.  The first wave of troops sent to Sicily by Athens consisted of nearly 40% light troops, 700 were slingers from Rhodes.

Another stand of slingers for the Spartan army
Another stand of slingers for the Spartan army
A view from the side - helmeted slingers from BTD, the other 2 are Victrix
A view from the side – helmeted slingers from BTD, the other 2 are Victrix

The Greeks preferred slingers over archers during this period.  It took even longer to train a slinger than an archer.  When using aerodynamic lead projectiles, “bullets”,  slingers could easily outdistance archers and hit targets at 350 yards.  The projectiles were harder to see, not only because they were smaller than an arrow or javelin, but because they also had a flatter trajectory.

The third unit of slingers for the Spartan army
The third unit of slingers for the Spartan army

Slingers began training at a very young age.  Ancient sources cite that children from the Balearic Islands were not given bread unless they first hit it with the sling.  Balearic slingers were not used by the Greeks, but were indispensable to the Carthaginians and Romans.

I read an account somewhere that Rhodian slingers wore black - figures by BTD
I read an account somewhere that Rhodian slingers wore black – figures by BTD

Some of the lead sling bullets had slogans carved in them.  Words like “take that,” “catch,” and (my favorite) “ouch!”  Reminds me of slogans painted on bombs and artillery shells in WWII.

The 2nd stand of slingers for the Argive army
The 2nd stand of slingers for the Argive army
Another angle - figures by BTD
Another angle – figures by BTD

It is a common stereotype that the slingers were all poor members of society.  Granted, they didn’t get rich selling their services, but many were well paid.  In some areas where slingers were recruited there was no currency in use.  In those places, slingers received women and wine as recruitment pay.dscn2174In calculating the number of slingers for use in a game, slingers should never out number javelins or peltasts.   Slingers can equal the number of archers and even slightly outnumber them.  In RRtK, they all have the same range and behave the same on the table top.

In upcoming articles, I’ll be discussing units as they come off of the painting table.  I’m working on archers, Tegean hoplites and Mantinean hoplites.  The hoplites from these city-states held the “position of honor” or the right flank in their respective armies, the Tegeans in the Peloponnesian League (Spartan) army and the Mantineans in the Argive Alliance army.