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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter VI
Chapter VI
Of Arrows.
Part 4 of 5

The ancients are reported to have been in poffeffion of a method of indurating brafs, but the procefs is not at this day known. The points of fpears, and the other weapons, which are not unfrequently found in feveral parts of Europe, are proved to contain an alloy very different from that made ufe of in the prefent day. Some experiments made by Mr. Dize, and inferted in the "Journal de Physique" for April, 1790, have fhewn that the brafs of the Greeks and Romans was compofed of copper, with a mixture of tin, inftead of zinc; and he fuppofes that it was owing to this circumftance that they were rendered fo hard. But I am inclined to think that there was a fubfequent procefs, to compleat the tempering. Mixtures of copper with tin, are manufactured in the prefent times, and are particularly applied to the cafting of artillery, and bells; for which laft purpofe the copper is to the tin, in the proportion of ten parts to one. Copper, by thefe alloys, is rendered hard, but brittle, as is the cafe with an addition of zinc. We may conjecture, therefore, that if the ancient brafs was in fact fo hard as it is reprefented to have been, that a temper was given by fome procefs ufed after the metal was compofed, and that it was not owing to the mixture alone. Virgil tells us, the fhield made by Vulcan for Æneas, at the requeft of Venus, and which the goddefs prefented to that hero herfelf, was made of brafs, and was hardened by plunging into water; but perhaps this idea might arife only from the making of fteel from iron, and not from a common method ufed to prepare brafs.

"Ingentem clypeum informant, unum omnia contra
"Tela Latinorum; feptenofque orbibus orbes
"Impediunt. Alii ventofis follibus auras
"Accipiunt redduntque: alii ftridentia tingunt
"Æra lacu."
Æneid. 8, 447.

I need not fay, that latterly, iron has been in general ufe for the heading of Arrows; but it may prove a more extraordinary piece of information if I fay, that they have been pointed with gold and filver, and thus ufed in battle, even in Europe.76

The figure of the Arrow-head has been very fimilar in all countries,—at leaft thofe made for the purpofe of war. They are reprefented fometimes barbed, fometimes plain and long. They are often flat, and nearly refembling the leaves of fome vegetables. (Plate 2, Figures 1, 2, and 3, are taken from ancient Arrow-heads.) No 1 and 2 were to be fixed to the wood-part by a fmall ferrule; but No 3 is a triangular folid pyramid, and the upper point was driven into the end of the wood, in the fame manner in which files and chiffels are fattened to their handles.

Thefe barbed fort are fpoken of by Ovid, in the following verfe:—

"Et manus hamatis utraquc eft armata fagittis."

The heads of thefe Arrows were feldom more than an inch, or an inch and an half long; but the unbarbed were longer.77

The Emperor Commodus is faid to have ufed fhafts, the heads of which were fafhioned like an half moon:—but we have occafion in another place to fpeak of thefe.

In more recent times, we are informed, there were great variety of Arrow-heads ufed in war. But as figures will be better underftood than any verbal defcription, I fhall refer the reader to the third Plate, which contains a variety of Arrows chiefly in ufe from the tenth to the fourteenth century. It will be obferved, that fome of thefe Arrows had the head fitted into the wood, and others had the wood fitted into the head. Some of them had their heads but flightly fixed on, or rather, had feparate pieces of iron which applied to the Arrow, in order that, when a wound was given, the fhaft alone fhould be drawn back, leaving the head buried in the flefh; and to render this more effectual, the iron was curved, or barbed, in various methods. (Plate 3, Figure A and B reprefent Arrows; and a and b the heads to be applied.)

The Turkifh Arrows in the fifteenth century are reported, by Villamont, to have been headed half a foot in length, and barbed.78

The Arrows ufed in the eaft at prefent, are armed with a flat barbed iron point, about an inch in length, which is fixed on to the cane by a fhort ferrule. Sometimes the heads are made in an acute pyramid, about one inch and an half long.

The common fhooting Arrows in England, as they are not defigned to inflict death, are not very fharply pointed. The fides of the fhaft converge to an obtufe point, at the diftance of an inch.

Plate 3 from  "An Essay on Archery" by Walter Moseley.
Plate 3
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