Lead slingshots discovered on Cretan sites carry considerable weight regarding the nature of warfare on the island in the Late Classical, Hellenistic and, even, Roman periods. Text on slingshots was conceived of, and cast as, an integral component of the weapon, thereby representing a fundamental aspect of the weapon’s design. Such messages, albeit brief by nature, have interesting implications for general levels of literacy within the troops as the personal names, insulting imperatives and irony all demand a degree of scriptive comprehension in order to achieve an effective delivery. In the broader field, slingshot inscriptions frequently denote a personal name, usually that of the squadron general; however, the presence of city names on slingshots, while relatively rare, have been ascribed to civic armies of Knossos, Gortyna and Phalasarna.
Slingshots bearing text are illuminating artefacts as, not only can they reflect military action, leadership and civic affiliations, but they also offer an insight into the psyche of their associated military personnel through their inscribed content. Some messages on Cretan slingshots seem to convey a psychologically-damaging intent; a malign aspect which is also attested on examples within the broader corpus. Perhaps the most valuable, if not the most surprising, attribute of the slingshot is their element of humour. Sling bullets are an unexpected source of military humour, albeit black, whereby their text occasionally addresses the target of the projectile. A scriptive dimension to provocation is a surprisingly potent addition to such a repertoire and, as such, the effective delivery of textual taunts is facilitated by the slingshot. In order for any associated psychological warfare to be effective, the projectiles of the light infantry (made up of slingers, archers and javilineers) had to pack a physical punch. This paper attempts to assess the effectiveness of the weapon in Cretan warfare in terms of physical impact, psychological intent and strategic versatility. The Cretan evidence will be appraised against a backdrop of the wider corpus with a view to establishing the degree of conformity to, or deviation from, general trends of light-infantry engagement.
A Bullet with Your Name on It & Other Such Military Communications
Dr. Amanda Kelly (National University of Ireland; Galway)
Monday April 11th 2011 at 7.30pm
IRISH INSTITUTE OF HELLENIC STUDIES AT ATHENS
Institiúid Éireannach san Ataen don Léann Heilléanach
Ιρλανδικό Ινστιτούτο Ελληνικών Σπουδών στην Αθήνα
Odos Notara 51a, 106 83 Athens, Greece Tel/Fax: +30-210-8848074, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org , www.iihsa.ie