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29th December 2005


I bought a small group of Roman lead slingshot....




Two types;

inscribed LXIII and the others, rather more numerous, inscribed CNMAC


The inscriptions would suggest they were found at the battle field site of Munda but.........


 From Niels

As I know that you  strive to unmask fakes on eBay, I feel sorry to have to tell you that all these bullets are fakes.

The inscription CNMAG reads CN(aeus Pompeius) MAG(nus filius)/IMP(erator).

Genuine bullets are found in Spain at the battlefield of Munda, where the Pompeians fought their last battle against Caesar on March 17th 45 B.C. The Legio XIII seemed to have participated in this battle too, however, their slingshots look completely different from yours.

The bullets of Pompeius' sons are also fakes; they all seem to be made from the same mold and show a variety of sizes.

They seem to have flat bottoms although they should have a double-pyramidal shape with the inscription IMP on the reverse.

Furthermore, the patina is light and thin. Usually, you find single specimens from time to time, but the fakes often sell as a group like yours and come from workshops in Sevilla. I myself had few of them until I found out that they were fakes.


Niels is right; the bullets themslves are a variety of shapes and weights but the inscriptions are formed by the same pair of moulds. The patina passes muster; it's thin, but generally would not worry one.



Lines drawn through the same points are parallel. The same moulds are used for the inscriptions. Most unlikely!


  From Roberto


Flatter versions really exist!

Without inscriptions I have seen the following variations:

  - two sides bi-conical

 - one side bi-conical the other flat

 - flatter bi-conical one side and the other flat

 - flatter bi-conical both sides.

 All of them originals. Found with metal detector by a detectorist.


However, now that such doubt has been thrown upon them I have emailed the person who bought one from me on eBay and have withrawn them from sale.


We need more information and pics af definitely genuine examples. I can find no photographs in any of my books.


More from Niels.

Examples of genuine pieces.



   From Niels again

First, you saw the difference in shapes concerning all three diferent types (CNMAG/IMP, LXIII, A).

 These bullets, supposedly of the Legio XIII and those with the letter A are made in exactely the same way like the flattened bullets of the Pompeians, but genuine ones look completely different. This suggests that the Pompeian bullets are fakes too.

I was told at first hand by a dealer from Sevilla (Fernando Rebollo) that he himself knows the forgers, and he was the first who told me how to unmask the fake bullets.

I myself had bought a lot of 12 faked bullets before, and the difference from the genuine ones that I purchased later is quite obvious: in shape, size, weight, metal, patina and surfaces.

Some of them were porous, and I could easily chip some small pieces from it by using a needle. They were also flattened. Furthermore I was told that the fakes often sell as whole group and that the letters of all specimens are molded in exactely the same way and are at the same position, independent of the size of the bullet. So the forgers use one genuine bullet, to make their molds and make different sizes and shapes.

The bullets you see in the pictures that I sent you are from CNG, the Axel Guttmann Collection of Ancient Arms & Armour, Sternberg in Swizerland, and the Spanish dealer I mentioned - these are highly trustable sources.

The problem is that too many people know the fakes only and have no chance to do any comparason checks.


Thanks very much indeed for this info.

Any more images or information from books would be greatly appreciated. I have looked in my own library and there is a dearth of information about these things.



Some groups on sale by perfectly respectable dealers online. They have no real reason to believe that these are other than genuine. And I now have no idea!

I will try to obtain further expert opinions on these.




This one on the left below described as Greek, with thunderbolt mark and and the two on the right, Macedonian, with inscription MERNA MEP NA and NA on reverse side


From Ken

5th January 2006


  • I have not looked to see what is currently online, but I personally like to stay away from making blanket statements. It is true that there are many fakes out there, but I think that most are genuine.
  • In your case, it certainly seems that they are reproductions. I have stayed away from any bullets with inscriptions, since I know they are often faked.
  • I think Niels condemnation based on shape is not valid, however. I have handled a great many of these bullets, and have seen an incredible variation in style. Size, shape and inscription (or lack of) vary from legion to legion and century. In this specific instance your examples having some flat backs is not unusual.
  • My experience has shown that if you look closely, such examples with flat backs simply means the bullet struck a hard surface in the course of being used. Often you will see impressions in the soft lead, probably from hitting rocks when they landed on the ground after missing their target (or hitting that target!).
  • Your examples also seem to lack a patina. It is possible that they were cleaned, but if so they would have a patina resembling those illustraed by Niels.




From: A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D



FUNDA (sfendo/nh), a sling.

The light troops of the Greek and Roman armies consisted in great part of slingers (funditores, sfendonh/tai). In the earliest times, however, the sling appears not to have been used by the Greeks. It is not mentioned in the Iliad; for in the only passage (Il. xiii.599) in which the word sfendo/nh occurs, it is used in its original signification of a bandage.

But in the times of the Persian wars slingers had come into use; for among the other troops which Gelon offered to send to the assistance of the Greeks against Xerxes, mention is made of 2000 slingers (Herod. vii.158); and that the sling was then known among the Greeks is also evident from the allusion to it by Aeschylus (Agam. 982). At the same time it must be stated that we rarely read of slingers in these wars.

Among the Greeks the Acarnanians in early times attained to the greatest expertness in the use of this weapon (Thuc. ii.81); and at a later time the Achaeans, especially the inhabitants of Agium, Patrae, and Dymae, were celebrated as expert slingers. The slings of these Achaeans were made of three thongs of leather, and not of one only, like those of other nations (Liv. xxxviii.29).

The people, however, who enjoyed the greatest celebrity as slingers were the natives of the Balearic islands. Their skill in the use of this weapon is said to have arisen from the circumstance, that, when they were children, their mothers obliged them to obtain their food by striking it with a sling (Veget. de Re Mil. i.16; Strab. iii. p168). Most slings were made of leather, but the Balearic ones were manufactured out of a kind of rush (Strab. l.c.). The manner in which the sling was wielded may be seen in the annexed figure (Bartoli, Col. Traj. t. 46) of a soldier with a provision of stones in the sinus of his pallium, and with his arm extended in order to whirl the sling about his head (Virg. Aen. ix.587, 588, xi.579).

Besides stones, plummets, called glandes (molubdi/dej), of a form between acorns and almonds, were cast in moulds to be thrown with slings (Lucret. vi.176; Ovid, Met. ii.729, vii.778, xiv.825, 826). They have been found on the plain of Marathon, and in other parts of Greece, and are remarkable for the

While the sling was a very efficacious and important instrument of ancient and a bag full of stones (Diod. Sic. iii.49).




29th August 2006


Fakery is nothing new.

This is a drawing of some of the group of some 1000 fake lead slingshot which came onto the market in 1874.

They were said to have been found near Ascoli in Apulia.

No les than 450 were purchased by thre Berlin museum and had  been seen  by no less a figure than Mommsen himself.

These were exposed as fakes by French epigraphists.






Near the City gate of Ascoli a Roman foundry for lead slingshot was discovered in 1853.


There was a great quantity of lead and moulds and stamps. The forgers obtained several  (genuine) examples of the stamps made to create the moulds.


Where the forgers  used only one letter type they were successful in their fraud.

But in many of the faked pieces they used two dissimilar stamps and

their mistakes were later noticed. The forgers also usually created the lettering on the smooth side of the shot following an old publication by de Minici.


One lead shot shows a half obliterated name PISO , a Roman Consul in the Sicilian Slave War, and over it,  clearly stamped , PAAPIVS  which was however repeated on other shot alone. On the other  side of these there appears the stamp of the XIth Legion with it's well known password, DIVVS JVLIVS.


This meant that this shot had in the space of a single century had had a triple life. In the Sicilian War (136BC-132BC), in the civil War, (90BC) and during the siege of Perugia by Octavian ((40BC). However, no other wars of the period were are registered on the other missiles.


The marks of the  genuine Ascoli  lead bullets are always from these  three wars; but none have been found with  this superimposition of lettering types.; except the fakes.




Does anyone know for sure when arsenic and antimony was added to lead to make them harder, when making Roman slingshots?