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Notes on presence of roman slingers in Serbia

dc.creatorVujović, Miroslav
dc.description.abstractZrna za praćku iz rimskog perioda, otkrivena na teritoriji Srbije, potvrda su prisustva praćkaša (funditores) angažovanih u rimskoj vojsci, kako odreda plaćenika regrutovanih u oblastima poznatim po upotrebi ovog bacačkog oružja (Sirija, Judeja, Ahaja, Rodos, Baleari), tako i vojnika obučenih u toku redovne obuke regruta. Za projektile od olova, kamena i keramike u najvećem broju slučajeva ne postoje precizniji podaci o mestu i uslovima nalaza. Za nekoliko olovnih primeraka, međutim, potvrđeno je da potiču iz rimskog kastela u Stojniku na Kosmaju, gde su najverovatnije i izrađivani u sklopu intenzivne metalurške delatnosti na eksploataciji srebrne i olovne rude. Otkriće velike ostave keramičkih projektila u rimskom utvrđenju Novae kod Čezave najsigurnija je potvrda prisustva rimskih praćkaša na đerdapskom limesu u periodu I-III
dc.description.abstractThe slingshots from Serbia are exceptional proof of the employment of slingers in this part of the Roman empire. Unfortunately, the provenance of the lead slingshots from the National Museum in Belgrade is mostly unknown but all are of the same type: with circular cross-section and pointed ends. The provenance of a few slingshots (for instance: fig. 2/6) have, however been traced to archaeological explorations of the 2nd century Roman fortress at Stojnik on the Kosmaj mountain (fig. 1). The fortress was built for the control and protection of nearby Roman silver and lead mines. The dimensions and weight of the lead slingshots from the Stojnik fortress, as well as other specimens of the same type from the National Museum in Belgrade, are almost identical. Their weight range varies between 126-138 g which could correspond to five Roman uncia (1 quincunx = 136.44 g) or 30-32 Atic drachmas (1 drachma = 4.336 g). Besides several lead examples from the National Museum in Belgrade (fig. 2), the largest find of clay slingshots originates from Čezava, i.e. the Roman fort Novae (fig. 1). The clay slingshots from Čezava (fig. 3/1-18) were discovered during archaeological excavations of the Roman military fort Novae in the Iron Gates. The castellan was one on the first large fortifications in the gorge, situated at a strategically important site, 100 m away from the river bank, where a port was established. The site was a convenient crossing point of the Danube in the gorge. The clay slingshots from Čezava were found either individually, or in larger numbers. The greatest number of slingshots were found around the southeast rampart, in a tower dated to the 2nd-3rd century, situated between porta principalis dextra and Tower IV (fig. 4). Here a store of 90 examples were discovered. A smaller number of identical shots were uncovered during excavation of Tower V and Tower III (fig. 4). A total of 147 slingshots were found. These concentrations of slingshots are not random. Considering that the effective range of slingshots could have been between 65-200 m, slingers placed on the ramparts and towers could control the road and the river bank, including the port and the river itself. This could have been of great significance had an enemy attempted to cross the Danube. Most slingshots were found in the layers dated on the basis of other finds to the 2nd and the 3rd century. Slingshots were made of refined clay modelled in aerodynamic form, most frequently biconical (pl. I/1a; fig. 3/1-6), oval (pl. I/1b; fig. 3/7-12) or olive (pl. I/1v; fig. 3/13-19) shaped and hard baked. The dimensions and weight of the Čezava shots differ considerably. Their length varies between 5.5-10 cm while the weight fluctuates from 42-259 g. The weight range indicates that clay slingshots were produced in several calibres, that could have been used for different purposes or range. With regard to the ancient metric system the weight range of Čezava projectiles fluctuates from 1S to 9S uncia (43.36-256.6 g), or between 10-60 drachmae (43.36-260.1 g), that is, at a ratio of 1:6. It seems that the coincidence is not accidental, especially in view of the weight of the drachma, the more so if we take into consideration the fact that the most skilful slingshot units in the Roman army were recruited in Greece and in the East. Although seemingly a simple weapon, the sling and its use are described in great detail in classical written sources. Ancient authors emphasize that slingers were utilized in preparations and support of infantry attacks in order to thin the ranks of the enemy and cause disorder. Mercenaries from Syria, Rhodes and the Balearic Islands engaged in the Roman army were commended as the most efficient in the ancient world. However, drilling recruits to use slingshots was part of regular service. For Vegetius, slingshot units belonged to the fifth combat line, together with archers and artillery crews. Moreover, they played a special role in sieges and the defense of fortifications. The same author recommends the deployment of these troops in naval battles, in which they could either support or hinder the landing of troops. Mention is also made of red-hot clay slingshots being used in order to set fire in the enemy camp. The engagement of slingers in the Danube Basin is not confirmed in historical or epigraphic sources. In addition to the finds of slingshots, perhaps the best illustration of their engagement in this territory is the scene from Trajan's column in Rome depicting Roman slingers fighting against the Dacians (pl. I/2). A connection between the finds of slingshots from Stojnik and Čezava and the units settled in the existing military forts is uncertain but not impossible. The fact that there is no direct epigraphic or written proof that a specialized unit of Roman slingers (fundatores) were garrisoned in Moesia Superior, does not seem to be relevant, since such a mentions are rare and late in date. Besides the size of the forts (Stojnik - 5 ha; Čezava - 1.6 ha) and their strategic importance, the Roman units garrisoned in Stojnik and Čezava were confirmed as mixed units - cohortes equitatae. Epigraphic data confirms the presence of such units, both in Kosmaj (Cohors II Aurelia nova milliaria equitata civium Romanorum, Cohors I Aurelia milliaria nova Pasinatum civium Romanorum, Cohors V Callaecorum et Lucensium, Cohors I Ulpia Pannoniorum milliaria equitata) and at Čezava (Cohors I Montanorum civium Romanorum and probably Cohors I Antiochensium). Owing to their mixed composition and numbers, cavalry cohorts were used as universal troops trained for different kinds of combat. They were frequently utilized in war, along with infantry and cavalry in legions. In times of peace they were also used on the borders of the Empire for the defense and control of the limes. As for the interior of the provinces, they were employed for the protection of important strategic points such as mines land and river communication lines, customs stations and larger urban centres. Finally, the presence of lead and clay slingshots in the Roman forts in Stojnik and Čezava can perhaps be explained by the presence of military units whose members were trained to use not only swords and spears, but also this ancient but effective weapon.en
dc.publisherSrpsko arheološko društvo, Beograd
dc.sourceGlasnik Srpskog arheološkog društva
dc.subjectrimska vojskasr
dc.subjectkeramička i olovna zrnasr
dc.titleBeleške o prisustvu rimskih praćkaša na tlu Srbijesr
dc.titleNotes on presence of roman slingers in Serbiaen
dc.citation.other(23): 297-313

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