The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > Ancient and modern methods of arrow-release > Part 11
Ancient and modern methods of arrow-release.
Part 11 of 17

A study of a number of ancient Grecian releases as shown in rock sculpture and on decorated vases reveals only one release that might possibly be intended to represent the Mongolian method, and this is shown on a Greek vase (black figures on red) figured in Auserlesene Vaserbilder. With this exception the releases thus far examined are as various, and many of them quite as enigmatical, as those seen among the ancient Egyptians. I puzzled for a long time over these sculptures from the temple of Athena to which Mr. Hansard refers, and was forced to come to the conclusion that, despite their acknowledged accuracy, the release was an impossible one. It was not till sometime after that I learned that the figures had been carefully restored by Thovaldsen, and the restored parts comprised the hands and arms, as well as the extremities of most of the figures. With this information I had occasion to hunt up a history of these figures, and found the following in a work by Eugene Plon entitled "Thovaldsen his Life and Works," republished in this country by Roberts Brothers. The figures were restored by Thovaldsen in 1816. Among the restored parts were the hands of the archers. "The statues were in Parian marble, and he used so much care in matching the tints of the new pieces as almost to deceive a practiced eye. He was frequently asked by visitors to the Atelier which were the restored parts. I cannot say,' he would reply laughing; 'I neglected to mark them, and I no longer remember. Find them out for yourself if you can'" (p. 56). Of these restorations, however, it is possible that Mr. Hansard was not aware, though if he had ever attempted drawing a bow in the manner represented in these figures, he would have seen the absurdity as well as the impossibility of the attitude ; and, furthermore, had he been at all familiar with the Mongolian release he would have seen that there was really no approach to the form as employed by the Man-chu, Korean, Japanese, or Turk. The following figure (Fig. 42) is sketched from the set of casts in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. An examination of these figures will show that the angle made by the shaft-hand in relation to the bow-hand is also inaccurate. A release that might at first sight suggest the Mongolian form is shown in the accompanying figure (Fig. 43) representing an Amazon archer, which is painted on a Greek vase of the 4th century B.C. The forefinger seems to be holding the end of the thumb, but the thumb is not hooked over the string as it ought to be. If the hand be correctly drawn it represents quite well the tertiary release ; and this supposition is borne out by two sculptures, one from the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Phigalia (Fig. 44), and another from Lycia, Asia Minor. (Fig. 45.) In these two examples the hand seems to be in the attitude of drawing the bow, with the fingers partially bent on the string, and the thumb assisting in holding the arrow; and this is the form of the tertiary release.

The earliest Greek release that I have seen is represented on a block of stone sent to this country by the Assos Exhibition, and now the property of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is supposed to date about, 2200 B. C.

In this figure the hand is vigorously grasping the string, with the first and second fingers abruptly bent, the third and fourth fingers apparently having been broken away. (Fig. 46.)

If this release really represent a permanent form of shooting, then this form should have been designated the primary release ; but, so far as I have learned, it seems to be a temporary mode resorted to only under special conditions. In testing the stiffness of a bow, for example, the string is grasped in this manner. An instance of this is seen on one of the Assyrian slabs, where the king is represented as trying a bow. I was informed by a Zuni chief that when shooting in a great hurry the string was vigorously clutched by three or four fingers, the arrow being held against the first finger by the thumb.