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Did you know that Menorca had its own army of warriors? And did you know that the Carthaginians and the Romans hired them as mercenaries?

Surely until you landed in Menorca, you didn't know about the island's rich prehistoric heritage. We will gradually uncover this very important part, as a single blog entry is not enough to tell about the approximately 2,400 years of prehistory. The Talayotic culture was formed by the first inhabitants of the island, and while Greeks, Phoenicians, and Romans sailed the Mediterranean, a unique indigenous culture evolved here. The prehistoric warriors, also known as the slingers of the Balearic Islands, were very important for the defense of the island before the arrival of other Mediterranean civilizations, such as the Romans. They were a great influence on the Carthaginian army first and the Roman army later.

When talking about the slingers, the warriors of the Gymnesian Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Corsica, and Sardinia) are usually recounted as legends, as part of mythology, but the truth is that they were real men, with real skills, and what is said about them is real. The Balearic slingers were warriors with a precision envied by the armies of other civilizations sailing the Mediterranean and reaching the islands. Their weapon, a sling made of esparto or hemp, plants that to this day are part of the island landscape. The warriors strategically held the sling by the ends with their fingers. At the other end, the hemp was adjusted to hold a stone, so when swinging the sling and gaining speed and power, upon releasing one end of the hemp, the stone was shot out at a speed of up to 240 kilometers per hour. Far from being child's play, the truth is that the slingers achieved deadly shots; the Balearic slingers had great accuracy and knew how to launch the "bullets" at high speed. This practice served for hunting, as well as for protection against pirates and invaders. As a means of defense and subsistence, they worked as mercenaries in the armies of the great European powers of the time.

First, it was the Carthaginians. While the Phoenicians did settle in the Pityusic Islands, they did not establish themselves in Mallorca and Menorca, but there were certain commercial relationships with them, with the Greeks, and later with the Carthaginians. Legend has it that one winter, around the 2nd century BCE, in the post-Talayotic period, the fourth and last prehistoric period, Magón Barca, brother of Hannibal Barca and sons of Hamilcar Barca, spent a winter on the island, specifically in the port of Mahón, just before the Punic Wars, and there is where they discovered the great potential of the indigenous warriors. The Carthaginians were the first to take advantage of the skill of these warriors, but not the only ones.

The Romans, who arrived in Menorca in 123 BCE, found the Menorcan coast hard to reach. Every time they tried to approach the coast with their ships from the North of the island, now Sanitja, they were greeted by a large cloud of stones that came at great speed from the sky. The Romans had to try several times. Every time they approached the coast, the hulls of their ships were seriously damaged by the impacts of the stones, so again and again, until Quintus Caecilius Metellus, a Roman politician and military man, also known as "the Balearic," devised covering the ships with hides and finally managed to reach the land. Once the Romans were established on the island, they managed to reach agreements with the slingers to fight among their ranks.

The Carthaginians hired about 2,000 slingers, and it is believed that they fought alongside the Carthaginians against the Romans in the Battle of Sicily and in the Second Punic War, and with the Romans in the Gallic War. Although it is believed that the Balearic slingers were already participating in battles since the 5th century BCE.

The slingers, in addition to their accuracy, stood out for the speed with which they could launch projectiles. They specialized to such an extent that they polished the stones to achieve greater speed and effectiveness, and over the years, they began to carve lead bullets to improve aerodynamics and effectiveness. They also had slings of three different lengths depending on the distance to the target.

It is said that from a young age, they were trained to develop these qualities worthy of a good warrior such as accuracy and strength. At mealtime, mothers would place a piece of bread on a high point, which the children had to hit with the slings if they wanted to eat it. This is how future slingers achieved precision. Another legend says that it was precisely the Romans who gave the Balearic Islands their name, all because of the great speed with which the indigenous slingers managed to shoot projectiles from their slings. Therefore, the name "Balearic" comes from "bullet," in reference to the speed with which the slingers shot the stones like a bullet.

Today, there are no warriors as such, but their legacy lives on in the form of sports, such as archery, javelin throwing, and other disciplines derived from primitive survival practices. Currently, there are slinging competitions, with participants from all over the world. It is not surprising that in these competitions, the Balearic competitors stand out and often rank among the top positions; you just have to look at the past.


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