The earliest concrete Medeval Archers evidence of archery dates back 5,000 years. The bow probably originated for Mediveal Archers use in hunting and was then adopted as a tool of warfare. Medieal Archers Bows eventually replaced the atlatl, as the predominant means Meideval Archers for launching projectiles.
Classical civilizations, notably the Persians, Macedonians, Nubians, Greeks, Parthians, Indians, Chinese, and Koreans, fielded large numbers of archers in their armies. Arrows proved exceptionally destructive against massed formations and the use of archers often proved decisive. Archers sometimes rode on horseback (horse archers), combining range with speed. Apollo, Odysseus and other mythological characters are often depicted with a bow.
The phrase "a parting shot" comes from the Parthian shot, a technique employed by the Parthians, with the riders turning in the saddle to shoot as they rode away from the enemy.
- 1 Medieval European archery
- 2 Asian and Middle Eastern archery
- 3 References
- 4 See also
Medieval European archery
During the Middle Ages, archery in warfare was not as prevalent and dominant, in Western Europe, as popular myth dictates. Archers were quite often the lowest paid soldiers in an army or were conscripted from the peasantry. This was due to the cheap nature of the bow and arrow, as compared to the expense needed to equip a professional man-at-arms with good armour and a sword. The bow was seldom used to decide battles and viewed as a "lower class weapon" or as a toy, by the nobility. However, among the Vikings, even royalty such as Magnus Barelegs used archery effectively, and the Muslims used archery, presumably also in their numerous raiding expeditions all over the Western European seaboard, in the 9th and 10th centuries.
By the time of the Hundred Years' War, the English had learned how to employ massed archery (as opposed to dispersed skirmishing) as an instrument of tactical dominance, with their English longbows. They would form in a line or lines with arrows stuck in the ground in front of them so they could fire and easily reload. They would fire continuously, and if they had multiple rows they would fire in a round, here is an example 1st row fires then second fires while first reloads, etc. This would create a rain of arrows thus terrifying the enemy, that is why the longbow is now called the machine gun of the Middle Ages. Archers were drawn from the freeholding farmers, known as yeomen and trained rigorously from childhood. Every boy was given a bow of his own height and was required to train with it. Tournaments were sponsored, to encourage proficiency.
In combat, they would often shoot two arrows, one on a high trajectory and one on a low trajectory. These two arrows would hit the enemy simultaneously from two different angles, making defense difficult. The advent of the bodkin point also gave arrows better penetrative power.
The crossbow, while dating from classical times, became quite popular during the Middle Ages. While it took many years to train a longbowman, someone could become proficient with a crossbow with remarkably little training. The crossbow had about the same power and range as a longbow. Its major drawback however was that it took a long time to reload. The renowned armour-piercing power of the crossbow caused fear amongst the well-armoured nobility and it was banned by the Second Council of the Lateran (at least between Christians), although to little avail.
The advent of firearms rendered bows obsolete in warfare. Although bows had a longer range and could shoot much more frequently than the earliest guns, guns could penetrate most armour and required minimal training. Later development gradually gave firearms advantages over bows in range, accuracy and eventually in reload time. An illustration of the declining popularity of the bow could be seen in the various edicts promulgated by 16th-century English monarchs, to make archery a mandatory practice for all men of fighting age, including Henry VIII's famous ban on the practice of all sports other than archery, on Sundays.
The term "Second String" (or the phrase 'to have more than one string to your bow') derives from the fact that medieval archers would carry a second string, in the event that their "first string" snapped.
Asian and Middle Eastern archery
An archery contest in Ladakh, India
Archery was also highly developed in Asia and in the Islamic world. The horse archers were the main military force of most of the Equestrian Nomads. In modern times, horse archery continues to be practised in some Asian countries but is not used in international competition. Central Asian tribesmen were extremely adept at archery on horseback. Archery is the national sport of the Kingdom of Bhutan.
Asian arrows are less stiff than western arrows, with smaller fletchings. Bows vary widely.
The bow is held clasped to the chest, arrow point slightly up. Both arms are extended, the left arm up and toward the target, the right arm back and away from the target. The bow and arrow are drawn down into a line, with both arms locked on opposite sides of the body but the elbow of the right arm is permitted to flex. In some styles the bowstring and fletchings may actually be held behind one's head. The arrow is held at the first joint of the thumb and the string rests on a thumbring (Mongol or Manchu) or a slot at the base of a gauntlet's thumb (Japanese tsuri), so it does not hurt the thumb. A headband may be worn to keep the bowstring from hurting one's ear or head. Thick, loose clothing protects the arms and chest from the bowstring, at release. Warriors on the battlefield often wore leather gauntlets, chest armor and helmets with flared ridges, to protect against the bowstring.
Foot-bows were known and sometimes used in warfare; they were preferred to crossbows because they had a faster firing rate and somewhat longer range. The basic technique was for archers to lie on their backs, with the bows held to their feet; they would put the arrow between their feet, and pull back the string with both hands, using their back and legs to bend the bow. Aiming was poor but with the weight and velocity of the five foot long arrows, combined with massed volleys, this became less important.
Archery was widespread in India. Arjuna's bow, Gandiva, was the Indian equivalent of King Arthur's Excalibur.
- Gungdo, Korean archery.
- Kyudo, Japanese archery.
- Yabusame, Japanese horseback archery.
- Turkish archery
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