1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Sling

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[ 242 ]

SLING (from M. Eng. slingen, to fling, throw with a jerk, Icel. slyngva, cf. Ger. schlingen, to twist), an implement for casting missiles, also from its resemblance in form to the implement, a hanging loop used as a support for a wounded limb, a chain with hooks used for raising or lowering heavy goods or objects, &c. The sling as a weapon is probably the earliest form of device known to mankind by which an increase of force and range was given to the arm of a thrower of missiles. Sling stones from the stone age have been frequently found (see Arms and Armour). The form of the weapon is of two kinds; the sling proper consists of a small strap or socket of leather or hide to which two cords are attached; the slinger holds the two ends in one hand, whirls the socket and missile rapidly round the head and, loosing one cord sharply, despatches the missile; the other type is the staff sling, in which the sling itself is attached to a short staff, held in both hands. This was used for heavier missiles especially in siege operations during the middle ages. There are many references to slings and to slingers in the Bible; the left-handed slingers of Benjamin were famous (Judges xx. 16). The Assyrian monuments show the sling of the ordinary type and slingers were used in the ancient Egyptian army, but not before the 8th century B.C. The sling (Gr. σφενδόνη), Lat. funda) is not mentioned in Homer; Herodotus (vii. 158) speaks of the slingers in the army offered by Gelon to serve against the Persians; it seems to have been a weapon chiefly used by barbarian troops. The Acarnanians, however, were expert slingers (Thuc. ii. 81), and so also were the Achaeans, who later invented the sling which discharged a shaft with an iron bolt head (Livy xlii. 65, from Polybius). In the Roman army by the time of the Punic Wars the slingers (funditores) were auxiliaries from Greece, Syria and Africa. The Balearic islanders, who were in Hannibal's army, were always famous as slingers. In medieval times the sling was much used in the Prankish army, especially in defending trenches, while the staff-sling was used against fortifications [ 243 ] in the 14th century. They were used down to the 16th and 17th centuries to throw grenades.