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Full Version: Slingers and their origins in the Trajanic period
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Evening all,
Could anyone shed any light on why the slingers on Trajans column are generally described as Balearic slingers. Is it purely down to Balearic slingers being employed in the armies of the Republic or is there some evidence to them being employed in the Imperial armies.
I consider them much more likely to be British or Germanic Numerus units.
Trajan's column is full of archetypes and symbolism. If an artist wanted to depict a Dacian then he gave him a falx regardless of how common it actually was. If he wanted to depict a legionary then he shows him in a segmentata even though most of them probably wore some other armour. There is no point depicting British or Germanic Numerus troops wielding slings because nobody viewing the sculpture will be able to tell who they were. The archetypical slinger in Roman society was Balearic so if there were any Balearic troops in that campaign then they will be depicted with slings even if a lot of them actually used other weapons. These kinds of sculptures can't be used to tell us what equipment soldiers of the time had.
I think that the question asked is not whether the Column accurately depicts slingers as Balearics or Balearics as slingers but whether modern commentators are correct in assuming that the slingers employed in the campaign were necessarily Balearic.
That's right, i'm questioning if theres any actual evidence for Balearic slingers in the army post 1st C BC or are modern writers/illustrators/reenactors creating an anachronism based around the fact that the Republican army employed slingers. I agree with the point regarding symbolism and the column, the slingers are grouped with clubmen and stone throwers thus indicating a Numerus style unit as opposed to a regular Auxilia unit (probably the reason no recorded units of auxiliary slingers have been found)
Quote:... thus indicating a Numerus style unit as opposed to a regular Auxilia unit (probably the reason no recorded units of auxiliary slingers have been found)

Just because a unit is a numerus, does not mean, that it was never mentioned. We know a lot of numeri, which even have been regular units of a provincial exercitus. Just no slingers.

Did you say, that no slinger units are known from other sources for Trajan's campaign? Or from the 2nd century on, or for the principate at all?
It is my understanding that there is no mention of formed units of slingers in the armies of the principate. I know of them in the late Roman period.
Quote:It is my understanding that there is no mention of formed units of slingers in the armies of the principate. I know of them in the late Roman period.

Actually I never heard about a slinger unit during the principate, too. Vegetius wrote later, that every roman soldier had a sling and had to practise it. Of course we never know, about which timeframe Vegetius is talking exactly. I doubt, most of them became very efficient slingers. But there are always soldiers which are more talented with the sling than others, and all the guys, who already learned it as child (not just Balearians, also shepherds and others).

So via integrating slingers into regular units, the romans could always build a slinger unit during a campaign, if needed. Similar like legionaries used as velites if needed and were called antesignani in this case. In Arrians battle against the Alans, the first 4 lines of his phalanx used spears, while the last 4 lines used javelins. Also the equites of the numerous cohortes equitatae were attached to the alae during a battle. Or think about the ballistiarii. They had a special optio for training and such, but were not consolidated into a special artillery unit during the principate.

It might be possible, that the romans decided for more flexibility and less specialisation for their standard units during the principate. This also explains the rise of the cohors equitata. If some of the soldiers are able to use ranged weapons, you got a kind of independent mini-exercitus.

What we see on Trajan's column are just slingers. We don't know, where they come from, or to what unit they belong to.
well in the light of what we know I think that the whole Funditores on the column are just an anachronism, they didn't even existed by Trajan's time but the arts tradition asked for them to be there
Another possibility, however sling shot appear in the archaeological record and there are later recorded units of slingers in the Later Imperial Army.
Quote:Another possibility, however sling shot appear in the archaeological record and there are later recorded units of slingers in the Later Imperial Army.

The Later Imperial Army is much more specialised, e.g. it has separate units for ballistiarii or exploratores. Both functions which were integrated in the standard unit during the principate. Just one of many cases, where we can see a paradigm shift.

Why did Vegetius mention the integration of slingers? In general, his intention was not so much to describe the "ancient legions" precisely. Actually he mixed up a lot of facts and timeframes. His intention seems to be more to criticize the late roman army of his days. Did he mention the slingers in order to criticize the increasing specialisation in the late roman army?

Looking to the hundreds of inscriptions we have from the principate, it is very noticeable, that no soldier ever mentioned, that he belonged to a cohors or numerus funditorum.