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2,200-Year-Old Greek ‘Victory’ Sling Bullet Discovered in Israel

Greek Sling Bullet
The sling bullet with the inscription “Victory of Heracles and Hauronas”. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

A lead sling bullet inscribed with the message, “Victory of Heracles and Hauronas” in Greek, was discovered in the Israeli city of Yavne.

The Israel Antiquities Authority announced on Thursday that the sling bullet told The Times of Israel that the bullet was discovered about a year ago and has been under examination since then.

Archaeologists say that the weapon, meant to ensure victory in battle, may have belonged to a Greek soldier during the war against the Hasmoneans during the Hellenistic Period.

The Hasmonean dynasty was a ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity from c. 140 BCE to 37 BCE.

“The pair of gods Hauron and Heracles were considered the divine patrons of Yavne during the Hellenistic period,” explained Professor Yulia Ustinova from Ben Gurion University of the Negev, who deciphered the inscription.

Greek divine hero Hercules, son of Zeus (Roman Jupiter) and the mortal Alcmena is famous for his strength and numerous far-ranging adventures. Hauronas, or Hauron, was an ancient Egyptian god worshiped in Giza.

“Actually, the inscription on a sling bullet is the first archaeological evidence of the two guardians of Yavne, discovered inside Yavne itself,” Ustinova said. “Until today, the pair was only known from an inscription on the Greek island of Delos.”

“Niki” (Victory) is the inscription on the other side of the sling bullet. Credit: Israel Antiquities Authority

Greek sling bullet meant to intimidate adversaries

The Israeli archaeologist explained that this message was intended as a threat toward the Greek warrior’s adversaries.

“Lead sling bullets are known in the ancient world beginning in the 5th century BCE, but in Israel few individual sling bullets were found with inscriptions,” she continued.

“The inscriptions convey a message of unifying the warriors with the aim of raising their spirits, scaring the enemy, or a call intended to magically energize the sling bullet itself,” Ustinova told the Jerusalem Post.

However, there is no way of knowing whether or not the projectile actually belonged to a Greek soldier, according to Pablo Betzer and Dr. Daniel Varga, the directors of the excavation on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

According to them, there is a chance that it was used during a conflict between the Greeks and the Hasmoneans.

“In the 2nd century BCE, pagan Yavne – which was an ally of the Seleucids (the Greeks who ruled Eretz-Israel), were subject to attacks by the Hasmonean armies,” the directors explained.

“The Hasmoneans sought to subjugate the other nations and create a homogeneous and ‘pure state’ from a religious-ritualistic point of view,” said the directors. “The tiny lead sling bullets, announcing the imminent victory of the gods of pagan Yavne, are tangible evidence of a fierce battle that took place in Yavne at that time.”


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