Balearic slingers. 4 figures, 4 variants
The Auxilia (Latin, lit. “auxiliaries”) constituted the standing non-citizen corps of the Imperial Roman army during the Principate era (30 BC–284 AD), alongside the citizen legions. By the 2nd century, the Auxilia contained the same number of infantry as the legions and in addition provided almost all of the Roman army’s cavalry and more specialised troops (especially light cavalry and archers). The auxilia thus represented three-fifths of Rome’s regular land forces at that time. Like their legionary counterparts, auxiliary recruits were mostly volunteers, not conscripts.
The Auxilia were mainly recruited from the peregrini, free provincial subjects who did not hold Roman citizenship and constituted the vast majority of the population in the 1st and 2nd centuries (c. 90% in the early 1st century). In contrast to the legions, which only admitted Roman citizens, members of the Auxilia could be recruited from territories outside of Roman control.
Auxiliary regiments were often stationed in provinces other than that in which they were originally raised, for reasons of security and to foster the process of Romanisation in the provinces. The regimental names of many auxiliary units persisted into the 4th century, but by then the units in question were different in size, structure, and quality from their predecessors.
From about 218 BC onwards, the Republican army’s slingers were exclusively mercenaries from the Balearic Islands, which had nurtured a strong indigenous tradition of slinging from prehistoric times. As a result, in classical Latin, Baleares (literally “inhabitants of the Balearic Islands”) became an alternative word for “slingers” (funditores, from funda = “sling”). Because of this, it is uncertain whether the most of the imperial army’s slingers continued to be drawn from the Balearics themselves, or, like archers, derived mainly from other regions.
Independent slinger units are not attested in the epigraphic record of the Principate. However, slingers are portrayed on Trajan’s Column. They are shown unarmoured, wearing a short tunic. They carry a cloth bag, slung in front, to hold their shot (glandes).
The late Roman writer Vegetius, in his work De Re Militari, wrote:
- Recruits are to be taught the art of throwing stones both with the hand and sling. The inhabitants of the Balearic Islands are said to have been the inventors of slings, and to have managed them with surprising dexterity, owing to the manner of bringing up their children. The children were not allowed to have their food by their mothers till they had first struck it with their sling. Soldiers, notwithstanding their defensive armour, are often more annoyed by the round stones from the sling than by all the arrows of the enemy. Stones kill without mangling the body, and the contusion is mortal without loss of blood. It is universally known the ancients employed slingers in all their engagements. There is the greater reason for instructing all troops, without exception, in this exercise, as the sling cannot be reckoned any encumbrance, and often is of the greatest service, especially when they are obliged to engage in stony places, to defend a mountain or an eminence, or to repulse an enemy at the attack of a castle or city.