Spanish slings and stone throwers

By Rob Morgan

I was reading a long article on Spain’s early modern (or as I like to call it, Renaissance!) period soldiers in an old issue of War in History (Vol 9 (i), 2002, Pp. 1-38) by Lorraine White. Not surprisingly, a few nuggets surfaced in this decent account of arms, armour and armies, which are of interest to the table-top weapons fan. The writer opens with a list of the encounters, wars and rebellions which beset Spain from 1500 AD onwards; the great offensive to annex Navarre in 1512, the Germanias revolt in Valencia 1519-22, the revolt in Cataluna in 1521-22, and the nine French invasions between 1503 and 1597. Then there was the naval war with England, which attacked Spain in 1587, 1589 and 1596, and again in 1625. That’s far from the complete list. This was a busy time in Iberia!

In this article there are detailed comments on two medieval weapons still in use in Spanish warfare, and which may prove useful. In 1568-1570, the Moriscos of Granada revolted, and in the ensuing warfare employed ‘traditional weapons of war’ in a battle at Fijliana mountain. A force of 3,000 rebels used stone-throwing engines (wrongly called ‘catapults’ in the text) which caused significant casualties among the attackers. The description suggests these were easily assembled man-powered traction ‘Perriers’ rather than larger trebuchets.

Even later, in 1641, Castilian militias involved in the relief of a Portuguese siege of the frontier fortress of St. Martin, being inadequately equipped with the arquebus (more than half the militiamen were without one) efficiently supplemented their gunpowder weapons with simple slings, the traditional peasant weapon, and one the bulk of the rural militiamen could use effectively. And did in this case!

Begs another of those ‘When was it last used in war?’ questions!

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