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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter III
Chapter III
Of the figure of the Bow
Part 3 of 4

The Bow is a figure feldom to be feen among the arms and trophies, ftruck on Roman medals. The reafon for which is, perhaps, that it was efteemed unworthy a place among the proper military weapons, becaufe not ufed by the regular troops. The Sagittarii and Funditores were auxiliary men, and were not held in high eftimation by the legions.

The Amazonian Bow does not appear to have any very particular character different from the other Bows of three pieces; in general, however, it appears of ftronger make; but perhaps this may be a compliment to thofe ladies from the fculptors. Fig. 3, Plate I, is a copy from one in the hand of an Amazonian woman, in Montfaucon.

The modern Long-bow is well known, and is better underftood from a figure than a defcription. The only difference in thofe formerly in ufe, and what are at prefent made is, that the ancient ones were fometimes of a fingle piece, but the modern ones have a thin piece of Afh joined, as I have already defcribed. Plate I, Fig. 7, is the modern Bow ftrung. It may be feen, that in the middle there is a binding, in order to enable the fhooter to hold the inftrument fteady, and at the fame time to prevent the hand being hurt; our old Archers had no fuch defence, but held their Bows well befmeared with wax, in order to fix it in the hand.

Bows, if we believe hiftorians and fculptors, were much ftronger formerly, in fome countries, than they are made at prefent. The figures of thefe inftruments on ancient fragments, are always much fhorter than we imagine they ought to be. Some are fcarcely longer than a man's arm, and very few exceed that meafure in any great degree. But the thicknefs of them is proportionately greater. We find, however, there were people who ufed Bows as long as thofe made in England at prefent. Arrian fays, the Indian infantry held Bows whofe length was equal to the height of him who bore it; and this ftandard feems to have been approved by other nations.34 The Irifh ftatue of Edward IV. fays, "That the Bow fhall not exceed the height of a man; and that the Arrow fhall be half the length of the Bow."35 The Carducian Bow was three cubits long, the Arrows two.36 Herodotus fays, the Bow ufed by the Ethiopians was of Palm tree, not lefs than four cubits; and they fhot with extremely long Arrows. We cannot form any exact conjecture on the degree of power thefe inftruments poffeffed, as the length of a Bow has no influence in increafing the flrength ; rather the contrary. We muft conclude they were of prodigious force, however; and the account of Zenophon, whofe foldiers felt the Arrows of the Carducians during the retreat of the ten thoufand Greeks, correfponds with this opinion.—He fays, "Here fell a brave man, Cleonymus, a Lacedemonian, who was wounded in the fide by an Arrow, that made its way both through his fhield and his buff coat," —Again,—" Here fell Balias, an Arcadian, whofe head was quite fhot through by an Arrow."37 Many other inftances of the vaft force with which ancient Bows threw Arrows might be produced, but it is not neceffary, as the fact is well allowed.38

Some defcriptions we have of Bows made ufe of in foreign nations, appear to be very extraordinary; and I fhall quote a paffage from a traveller of diftinguifhed rank and judgment, which reprefents the practice of Archery in Perfia, at the time the author made his refidence there. "The young Perfians," fays he, "learn to fhoot the Bow; the art of which confifts in holding it firm, drawing, and letting go the ftring fmoothly. At firft they practife with a weak Bow; and afterwards, by degrees, with thofe which are ftronger. The perfons who give inftructions in this art, direct the young pupils to fhoot with eafe and agility, in every direction, —before them, behind, on either fide, elevated in the air, or low to the ground; in fhort, in every different pofture.39

Some of their Bows are exceedingly ftrong; and the method they make ufe of to know their power, is by fattening them to a fupport driven into a wall, and fufspending weights to the ftring at the point where the Arrow is placed, when going to fhoot.40 The ftrongeft require five hundred pounds weight, to draw them up to the Arrow's point.41.

When the pupils can manage a common Bow, they then have another given them, which they make heavier and heavier, by means of large iron rings which are placed on the ftring. Some of thefe Bows are an hundred weight. The pupils draw, ftring and unftring their Bows, while they leap and move about: fometimes while they ftand on one leg,—fometimes oh their knees, or while running about; which laft action makes a great and difagreeable noife by the clinking of the iron rings.

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