An amentum was a leather strap attached to a javelin
A Javelin is a light spear intended for throwing. It is commonly known from the modern athletic discipline, the Javelin throw.Javelin may also refer to:-Aviation:* ATG Javelin, an American-Israeli civil jet aircraft, under development...

 used in ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 athletics, hunting, and warfare, which helped to increase the range and the stability of the javelin in flight. Stability in flight was important because it allowed the javelin to land on its point, which was the only way the throw could be accurately recorded in competition or useful against a live target. The amentum also increased the effective length of the throwing arm as does a spear-thrower
An Atlatl or spear thrower is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in throwing light spears or darts, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to temporarily store energy during the throw....

 and so enhanced speed. In the experiments made by General Reffye
Jean-Baptiste Verchère de Reffye
Jean-Baptiste Verchère de Reffye was a French artillery general of the 19th century, and superintendent of the works at Meudon. He was a former ordnance officer for Napoleon III...

 for the Emperor Napoleon, a javelin that could be thrown only 20 metres by hand could be thrown 80 metres with the amentum.

The javelin was held at ear level and released after a short run. The amentum was looped over the first two fingers of the throwing hand so as to slip off when the throw was made. In competition throwing for distance, including the Ancient Olympic pentathlon
A pentathlon is a contest featuring five different events. The name is derived from Greek: combining the words pente and -athlon . The first pentathlon was documented in Ancient Greece and was part of the Ancient Olympic Games...

 at Olympia, Greece
Olympia, Greece
Olympia , a sanctuary of ancient Greece in Elis, is known for having been the site of the Olympic Games in classical times, comparable in importance to the Pythian Games held in Delphi. Both games were held every Olympiad , the Olympic Games dating back possibly further than 776 BC...

, a blunt javelin would be launched at about 45 degrees, but in war or the chase, a sharp weapon was thrown much closer to the horizontal. Javelins and their amenta were used both on foot and from horseback.

The amentum was attached firmly, at or near the centre of gravity of the shaft. By putting the amentum behind the centre of gravity it is possible to increase the distance thrown, but at the sacrifice of accuracy. Hence the amentum was detachable, and the athlete fastened it to suit his taste shortly before use. The winding of the amentum added rotation and therefore accuracy to the projectile, similar to the effect of rifling
Rifling is the process of making helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis...

 on a bullet.
The experiments conducted by H. A. Harris support the theories based on vase paintings of the proper use of an amentum.

Similar throwing straps were used on light javelins throughout Europe. Italian, Gaulish, and Spanish troops used them before and after the Roman conquests, they are mentioned in ancient Irish story, and remains have been found on spears in the Nydam bog finds
Nydam Mose
Nydam Mose is an archaeological site located at Øster Sottrup, a town located in Sundeved, eight kilometres from Sønderborg, Denmark.-History:...

, where some appear to have been permanently fastened with studs. A similar device was used in New Caledonia
New Caledonia
New Caledonia is a special collectivity of France located in the southwest Pacific Ocean, east of Australia and about from Metropolitan France. The archipelago, part of the Melanesia subregion, includes the main island of Grande Terre, the Loyalty Islands, the Belep archipelago, the Isle of...

, but in the rest of the world the spear-thrower was the usual device for increasing the speed and range of light javelins.
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