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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter IV
Chapter IV
Part 1 of 2

HAVING fufficiently defcribed the figure, and degree of power which the Bow has had in hiftorical ages, I fhall now lay a few words with refpect to the different ways of managing that inftrument, and point out the feveral attitudes and poftures which have been adopted and practtifed by various nations for that purpofe.

Method, in fome inftances, is well known to effect what greater force cannot ; and there is nothing in which this obfervation can be exemplified more ftrongly, than in fhooting the Bow.Every perfon who underftands the nature of Archery, will fee the truth of this affertion. A fimple experiment will prove it, in a very fatisfactory manner. Let an Archer, who in fhooting has learned to draw the Arrow to the eye or ear, draw it to his bread:, and he will find, that the Bow he in the former cafe could draw with eafe, will, in the latter, appear infinitely ftronger. Mr. Barrington fays, "That feveral years ago there was a man named Topham, who exhibited moft furprifng feats of flrength, and who happened to be at a public houfe at Iflington, to which the Finfbury Archers reforted after their exercife. Topham confidered the Long-bow as a play-thing only fit for a child; upon which one of the Archers laid him a bowl of punch, that he could not draw the Arrow two-thirds of its length. Topham accepted this bett, with the greateft confidence of winning; but bringing the Arrow to his breaft, inftead of his ear, he was greatly mortified by paying the wager, after many fruitlefs efforts.48

Notwithhftanding the evident disadvantage of drawing to the breaft, rather than the ear, yet it feems to have been the moft general practife in early periods. We know one nation is faid to have derived its name from that circumftance.49

This method of drawing to the breaft was continued in ufe for many ages; and it was efteemed a great improvement when the Roman auxiliaries were inftructed to draw the right hand to the ear. We read in Procopius, when defcribing the Archers in the Roman army, " That they ride with eafe, and fhoot their Arrows in every direction,—to the right, the left, behind, or in the front, while in full fpeed;—and as they draw the Bowftring to the right ear, they drive their Arrows with fuch rapidity, that it is certain death to him on whom they fall; nor can the ftouteft fhield or helmet refift the violence of the ftroke."50 On all the medals and baffo-relivos which are copied by the moderns, the figures are reprefented as drawing the hand to the breaft. There are fome who may recollect the attitude which Cupid is generally pictured in when fhooting, to be the fame we now mention; and he was a celebrated Archer.

But of the different methods that have been defcribed in hiftory, by which Archery has been practifed, that in ufe among the Ethiopians, and a few other nations, is undoubtedly the moft extraordinary. We read, that thefe people, inftead of holding their Bow in the left hand, as is the ufual cuftom, drew it by the affiftance of their feet. The fact, is recorded by Diodorus Siculus,51 and Strabo: the latter of whom informs us of a curious expedient of this pedeftrialArchery, ufed by the Ethiopians in hunting Elephants. They employ, in fhooting their ftrong Bows; three perfons ; two of whom fupport the Bow by preffing their feet againft it; while a third is engaged in drawing the ftring and directing the Arrow.52

Arrian reports, that the Indians fhot their Bows by the affiftance of their left foot, being enabled, by this means, to draw the ftring very far backwards.53

Zenophon, fpeaking of the Carducians, lays, "They had Bows which were three cubits long, and Arrows of two cubits. When they made ufe of thefe weapons, they placed their left foot on the bottom of the Bow, and by that method they drove their Arrows with great violence, piercing through the fhields and corflets of his men; and as the Arrows were extremely large, were ufed by them as javelins.54

It is recorded of the Arabians, that they ufed their Bows in the manner above alluded to, by the help of the foot.55

The reader will perceive that the paffages I have quoted in the notes are extremely indiftinct and obfcure; more particularly that from Arrian, from Zenophon, and from Suidas. Suidas, indeed, feems to intimate that the Arabians drew the Bow with their feet applied to the ftring, inftead of their hands; but certainly the paffage is corrupt, as the fact is impoffible. Nor can I explain the fenfe of thefe feveral authors, unlefs it be underftood, that one foot was made ufe of as a reft for the middle part of the Bow, while the ftring was drawn back by the hands. This appears to agree well With the expreffion in Arrian, greek textand I have not the leaft doubt, but that this was originally intended by the hiftorians, though the different mutilated texts convey the idea in a very concealed manner, as they now ftand.

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