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Leaden sling-bullets were widely used in the Greek and Roman world. For a given mass, lead, being  relatively heavy , it offers the minimum size and therefore minimum air resistance. In addition, leaden sling-bullets are small and also difficult to see in flight and avoid.

In some cases, the lead would be cast in a simple open mould made by pushing a finger or thumb into sand and pouring molten metal into the hole. However, sling-bullets were more frequently cast in two part moulds. Such sling-bullets come in a number of shapes including  the common  ellipsoidal form closely resembling an acorn - this could be the origin of the Latin word for a leaden sling-bullet: glandes plumbeae (literally lead acorns) or simply glandes (meaning acorns).


Other shapes include spherical and, by far the most common, resembling the shape of the shell of an almond nut - like an American football that has been squashed so that it has an elliptical rather than circular section. This shape is sometimes referred to as biconical.

The ancients do not seem to have taken advantage of the manufacturing process to produce consistent results; leaden sling-bullets vary significantly. The reason why the almond shape was favoured is not clear: it is possible that there is some aerodynamic advantage, but it seems equally likely that there is some more prosaic reason such as the shape being easy to extract from a mould or that it will rest in a sling cradle with little danger of rolling out.

Almond shaped leaden sling-bullets were typically about 35 mm (1 3/8 in) long and about 20 mm (3/4 in) wide weighing approximately 28 g (1 oz). Very often, symbols or writing were moulded on these bullets.



The most interesting, are the inscribed ones (glandes plumbeae inscriptae). They are of different types, but can generally be grouped, as follows:

1. The name/monogram of the leader of the slingers .

2. The name of the army commander, respectively, of the ruler or indeed the commander of the enemy : Feri Pomp(eium) = Strike Pompey. Pet(e) culum Octavia[ni] = Attack Octavian's arsehole.

3. An invocation to the gods for good luck (most often to the winged Nike);

4. Advice to the slinger, for example: 'Eu skanou ("throw accurately!"); EUSKANOU, which is translated as "be lodged well."

5. A menacing message to the enemy - trwgalion ("/this is for a/ dessert!"), trwge ("crack your teeth!"), prosece ("hold!"), dezai, labe ("catch!"), aiscron dwron ("/this is / an unpleasant gift!"), as well as not so decent wishes. DEXAI "take this," LABE "take it," FAINE "appear," NIKA "victory," PAPAI "ouch," AIMA "blood," LHGE "desist," AISCRODWRO "an unpleasant gift" and TRWGALION "bit it in vain" are well attested.

6 . Several sling-bullets survive that bear the names of groups of people and cities. Although group and place name inscriptions were more prevalent on Latin forms, several Greek bullets survive at Olynthus and nearby Mecyberna. Olynthus, a prosperous city in antiquity, produced nearly 500 lead sling-bullets, of which 112 are inscribed. Two group names and one city name appear in this assemblage, the Athenians, Olynthians, and Mecyberna.

There is no clear difference between Greek and Roman lead bullets as their shape and weight are similar.

As well as having inscriptions many have symbols such as: a palm, a horse, a bucranium, a star, an eagle with a thunderbolt, a winged thunderbolt, a trident, a dagger and a snake..

Earlier pieces of different size stone were used as bullets and the sling as a weapon was used effectively by the middle Eastern peoples and the Egyptians The Persians, used stones fist size of a man's fist in the 5th century BC according to Xenophon. Bullets were also manufactured of baked clay, like those known from the pre-historic sites in Bulgaria. The greatest progress was marked by the invention of the cast lead bullets in the 5th century BC. The Hellenic Greeks were credited with this innovation and the first such missiles are found on the battlefield near Marathon (490 BC).



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