FALĀḴAN (a sling), a term probably derived from the Avestan fradaxšanā- (Darmesteter, II, p. 215, n. 38; AirWb., col. 981). Asadī Ṭūsī (Loḡat-e fors, ed. Mojtabāʾī and Ašraf, pp. 197-98), quoting a verse by Rūdakī, defined falāḵan as kalāsang. Kalāsang/qalmāsang is described as a device “woven from wool or silk with which shepherds and footmen (šāṭerān) throw stones” (Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿīn, III, pp. 1486-87, 1539; cf. Garūsīn, p. 84). In central Persia today, ke/kolāsang and kalāsonga are used for sling (Sotūda, p. 308), while in eastern Persia the variant palaḵmān/palaḵmo(n) (Šālčī, p. 76; Reżāʾī, p. 120) are employed.
The slingstone is called zarštva- and asan- in the Avesta (Yt. 10.39; Vd. 17.9). In Persian dictionaries, the slingstone is usually called moštāsang (Borhān-e qāṭeʿ, ed. Moʿīn, IV, p. 2011). The stones were kept in a bag (tūbra) along with the sling to facilitate their transport (Balʿamī, ed. Rowšan, II, p. 1223; Jūzjānī, ed. Ḥabībī, p. 38).
The legendary king Kayūmarṯ (see GAYŪMART) is said to have used a falāḵan on which God’s name was inscribed to fight demons (Balʿamī, ed. Bahār, p. 114). The Achaemenid (553-330 B.C.E.) army included a group of slingers who even used lead bullets (Briant, pp. 1064-65). According to Balʿamī (ed. Rowšan, II, p. 1223), an ʿayyār (q.v.) of Baghdad used a falāḵan to smash the sword of a Khorasani soldier during the siege of the city by the forces of al-Maʾmūn under Ṭāher b. Ḥosayn. Slings were also used by the defenders of forts when they were besieged. Faḵr-e Modabber mentioned both sling and slingstone (sang-e falāḵan) among the necessities for defending a fortress. He distinguished these stones from other ones intended to be launched by catapults or thrown by hand (Faḵr-e Modabber, p. 424). The sling was still employed in wars of the 10th/16th century. For example, when Herat was attacked by Uzbeks in 957/1550, one of their chiefs, Šāh Moḥammad Solṭān, was hit by a slingstone that threw him off his horse (Eskandar Beg, p. 93). This, however, was a rare case of the utilization of the sling in a war of that period. In general, muskets and cannons had already begun to replace slings and catapults. Subsequently, the sling was only used by shepherds and footmen, as indicated in the dictionary definitions.
Jovaynī (ed. Qazvīnī, III, p. 131) referred to the falāḵan-e majānīq (catapults) used by the defenders of the fortress Alamūt (q.v.) when it was besieged by the Mongols in 654/1256. Similarly, Borhān-e qāṭeʿ (ed. Moʿīn, IV, p. 2038) describes manjanīq/k as resembling a large falāḵan, although the two had totally different mechanisms.
Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):
P. Briant, Histoire de L’Empire Perse: de Cyrus à Alexandre, Paris, 1996.
J. Darmesteter, Le Zend-Avesta, 3 vols., Paris, 1960.
Faḵr-e Modabber, Ādāb al-ḥarb w’al-œajāʿa, ed. A. Sohaylī Kᵛānsārī, Tehran, 1346 Š./1967.
C. Foss, “A Bullet of Tissaphernes,” Journal of Hellenic Studies 95, 1975, pp. 25-30 and pl. 38.
Ḥ. Garūsīn, Vāža-nāma-ye hamadānī, Tehran, 1370 Š./1991.
E. Pūr-Dāwūd, “Zīn-abzār: Falāḵan,” Barrasīhā-ye tārīḵī 3/1, 1347 Š./1968, pp. 53-58.
J. Reżāʾī, Vāža-nāma-ye gūyeœ-e bīrjandī, Tehran, 1373 Š./1994.
A. Šālčī, Farhang-e gūyeœī-e Ḵorāsān-e bozorg, Tehran, 1370 Š./1991.
M. Sotūda, Farhang-e semnānī, sorḵaʾī, lāsgerdī, sangsarī, œahmīrzādī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963.
Originally Published: December 15, 1999
Last Updated: January 20, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. IX, Fasc. 2, pp. 168-169