Kestros (weapon)

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A kestros (Greek: κέστρος) or kestrophedrone (Greek: κεστροσφενδόνη), also known as a cestrus or cestrosphendone, is a specially designed sling that is used to throw a heavy kind of dart.

The dart would typically consist of a heavy metal point approximately 9 inches (23 cm) long, attached to a shaft of wood, typically 12 inches (30 cm) long, and fletched with feathers or the like to provide stability of flight.


The kestros is mentioned in the writings of Livy and Polybius. It seems to have been invented around 168 BC. and was employed by some of the Macedonian troops of King Perseus during the Third Macedonian war. The description is quite confusing:

The so-called cestrus was a novel invention at the time of the war with Perseus. The form of the missile was as follows. It was two cubits long, the tube being of the same length as the point. Into the former was fitted a wooden shaft a span in length and a finger's breadth in thickness, and to the middle of this were firmly attached three quite short wing-shaped sticks. The thongs of the sling from which the missile was discharged were of unequal length, and it was so inserted into the loop between them that it was easily freed. There it remained fixed while the thongs were whirled round and taut, but when at the moment of discharge one of the thongs was loosened, it left the loop and was shot like a leaden bullet from the sling, and striking with great force inflicted severe injury on those who were hit by it.[1]

The exact construction of the kestrosphendone remains somewhat mysterious. However, experimental reconstructions based on the available information have resulted in quite spectacular results.[citation needed] Nonetheless, the kestrosphendone did not stand the test of time and seems to have been abandoned quite quickly. The fundamental purpose of this weapon seems to have been to develop a sling shot with the penetrative power of a point. If so, then a lighter version of this weapon, the plumbata, persisted into late antiquity. In this weapon, the wooden shaft gave nearly the same mechanical advantage as a sling. In effect, each sling bolt came with a one-time sling.

Another way of obtaining a one time sling was to fix a string to a slingstone made of lead. There is evidence for this variation at the Battle of Fucine Lake in 89 BC.


  1. ^ "Polybius • Histories — Book 27". Retrieved 16 September 2017.