May 4, 2013

Weapons & Warriors: The Kestros of the Macedonians

This has to be one of the deadliest slings ever made. Unlike the standard stone tossing slings of the Stone Age, the Kestros was sharp, and capable of penetrating light armor when thrown hard enough. The sharpened and weighted tip can do serious damage to an enemy on the battle field if not deflected by metallic armor. In motion the Kestros looks more like a double sling with straps around an iron tipped dart. The dart was usually around a foot in length or maybe a little more and built similar to an arrow. The entire tip is metal and purposely weighs more than the rest of the dart. This forces the tip to face front while airborne, and allows the shaft and feathers, or something similar, to guide it in a straight path.

The Kestros Art by TL Jeffcoat
Macedonian troops (a nation of ancient Greece) under the rule of King Perseus around 150 BC were known to train and use the Kestros in a few battles. It wasn’t used for a very long time, as technology quickly turned to more reliable ranged weapons. The Kestros was a light weight and easy weapon to carry with a quiver of darts that can be slung over a shoulder. The only downside of this deadly sling weapon is the winding up throw. Just like the sling, it was eventually replaced with weapons that didn’t require spinning it before attacking or used lighter ammo.

The dart is heavy enough that if it struck with full force it can easily penetrate leather and cloth style armors, and deep enough to fatally would someone. Iron and bronze more than likely can resist penetration, but since the dart’s point is made of iron, who really knows without testing it. The sling is made from a thin rope. One end is tied into a loop. About a quarter of the way down the length it is then split to create another loop. Then about 2/3’s from the looped end, a circular leather patch is tied on. The other end is simply knotted for an easier grip.

The First loop is wrapped around the rear of the dart, behind the feathers. A finger is looped around the next loop then the leather patch is wrapped around the shaft just behind the point of the dart. The knotted end is then held by thumb and forefinger. The warrior then spins the dart as fast as he can before releasing the knotted end. The loose thong frees the dart which corrects itself, due to the heavier iron point, to bring the sharp end to face the target.

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Weapons and Warriors, click here to view the entire catalog of weapons and cultures. Thank you, see you next week.

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