Kiko, you tourist guide
With Kiko discovering the slingers of Menorca
This weekend Hooky has invited me to a sling shooting contest that has been held in Es Mercadal. Have you ever seen it? It is a sport that needs a lot of skill and good aim to hit the target. Minorca slingers were well known in antiquity, famous and admired for their skill and bravery in combat. Would you like to know their story?
How did the sling children pick up the food?
In prehistoric times many Menorcan were shepherds and already used the sling. From very young they were forced to train and perfect their launching technique. That's how they became experts. They say that the mothers of Menorcan slingers placed their food on the branch of a tree. They were children but they had to hit the sling to knock it down. Until they got it, they could not eat anything.
With so much practice, it is not surprising that they were so skilled and that, years later, the soldiers of other towns were recruited and enlisted in their ranks.
But let's start at the beginning, what is a sling, Hooky?
"It is an instrument that in prehistory was made with animal hair or esparto, now is making with strips of leather or other flexible material. It is used to throw stones. The sling is folded in half, where there is a small compartment, you place the stone in the middle, turn it in the air, picking up speed and aiming at the target and releasing one of the points. The stone goes flying and, if you manage to hit the place where you wanted, ... you're already a slinger! “Says Hooky applauding.
"If only it was that easy!" I say. "Do you remember the story of David and Goliath? Goliath was a very strong and powerful giant. Nobody wanted to fight with him. But David, a young man armed only with a sling, defeated him. I supposed he's the most famous slinger. "
Three slings for the battle
A stone well launched with the sling takes so much speed that it is able to break metal shields and even the armor worn by some soldiers. It had been many years since the Menorcan used the slingshot as a defensive and attack weapon and also for hunting.
Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans discovered their great mastery with the sling and invited them to join their armies. They were brave young men who sold themselves as mercenaries to whoever paid them best. They protected their bodies with oil and pork fat and put on a leather breastplate. They always had a fur wrapped around their arm to protect themselves and ... they were ready for battle.
"Do you know that the slingers of Menorca did not want money or valuables as payment? They did not trust and believed that money only brought problems. They changed their work for olive oil and wine because they were highly valued and in Menorca there was not, "says Hooky.
"And they always carried 3 slings of different sizes. A small one that was tied to the head and that was to shoot at short distances. Another one longer that was rolled in the waist. It was to throw the heaviest projectiles and farther. The third was in his hand. It was the lightest and they were always ready to use it, "I tell Hooky.
Why do historians talk about the slingers of Menorca?
The Menorcan slingers were the first on the battlefield with the archers. Their projectiles went farther than the arrows and with their excellent marksmanship they opened the way. They threw stones, sometimes up to half a kilo, and soon began using lead balls that they used to record with prayers or drawings.
"They were placed in the sling, they would turn several times, always more than two, vertically or horizontally to pick up speed and fine-tune the aim. Well directed, they could reach up to 350 meters away although on the battlefield they used to reach 200 meters. Their rivals did not even see them coming through the air and caused more damage than the arrows, "Hooky tells me.
"Sure! That's how they broke the enemies' defenses. That is why his great courage in combat and his accurate launches were soon praised by all and his exploits were described by the historians of the time, "I say him.
More than 2000 years ago, when Carthaginians and Romans approached the coasts of Menorca with their boats they received such a rain of stones that they left sailing quickly. It is said that to be able to dock in the ports of the island the Romans had to invent the first armored ship in history. They lined their ships with leather because the slingers sank them by firing at the waterline.
Have the Menorcan slingers disappeared?
Julio César was a Roman military man who lived 2100 years ago. He led the war against the Gallic tribes, which is now France, Belgium and part of Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands) and it seems that he was the last one to have Menorcan slingers in his army.
"The inhabitants of Menorca began to trade with the wine and wheat they produced. They sold it to those who arrived on their boats to the island. They organized, schools were built, ... little by little his life changed, "Hooky explains.
"You mean they disappeared? What became of them? "I asked with curiosity.
"The slingers were taking over other businesses, they no longer traveled and many returned and settled here. But the sling is still used now with the same techniques as then. Nowadays it has become a game of skill like the competition we have seen in Es Mercadal ", says Hooky
They say that instinct means that when someone attacks us, we look for a stone and use it to defend ourselves. From this simple instinct the Menorcan made an art that led them to be admired by many thanks to their incredible skill and excellent marksmanship. For years they participated in the battles that took place in a good part of Europe.
Now there are still international meetings of slingers and in Menorca they meet to compete and show us their skills. Have you ever thrown a stone with a sling?