This Sunday we will hear how a sling (ancient predecessor of the slingshot) can lead even to a kinghood. Yes, on this Fathers’ Day we will talk about David and Goliath. But a sling in Bible times was not as homespun and boyhoodish as it might seem to us today. Even our most powerful slingshots could hardly match the reputation and use of ancient slings. Many do not know that during the Persian Empire a sling was a real weapon of war. For instance, Xenophon in his Anabasis (Book III part III) learned to respect Persian military slingers and their lead projectiles. Units armed with slings are depicted on Neoassyrian reliefs and remain a regular part of armies until medieval times. Ancient history and archeology help us to date more precisely our Biblical stories (For instance dating David’s saga to late Persian or Hellenistic period, 400 and 300 B.C.E.). Thus we can better understand the meaning of these stories and appreciate their message about strategy of asymmetric warfare, about bullying, about propaganda, and even about their long-forgotten wit and jokes.
And for those who read this far:
Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman (David and Solomon; In Search of the Bible's Sacret Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition) recognize Goliath’s armor as that of a Greek hoplite (originally Greek soldier in heavy armor). Based on this fact and some other textual circumstances they date Goliath with earliest presence of Greek mercenaries in the late VII. century B.C.E. John Van Seters (The Biblical Saga of King David) approaches this story from the literary perspective. He convincingly argues for David’s saga being written in the late Persian period (IV. century B.C.E.). Both positions are factually reconcilable. Finkelstein and Silberman set the earliest possible date for the presence of Greek hoplites, but their presence certainly became better pronounced and more dominant later, most especially during and towards the end of the Persian period. And because these stories usually reflect the past realities, we can even hypothesize that at the time of composition, the Persian Empire as well as the period of hoplites were already part of history - that would mean the early Hellenistic period.
|Ancient Greek military slinger|