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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter VIII: Divination by the Arrow
Chapter VIII
Divination by the Arrow
Part 2 of 3

A ftratagem of war, very much in ufe when the towers and walls of cities confided chiefly of wood, was effected by means of the Arrow.

Befiegers, unable to force a breach, or fap a wall, had recourfe to fire, which they directed againft all thofe parts which were combuftible.

The befieged, on the other hand, aimed their attention againft the machines and engines of wood, which fire could more fpeedily reduce than force.

In order to begin a conflagration, the fire was attached to the body of Arrows; and this was done by feveral different ways. Sometimes cotton, tow, or the like fubftance, previoufly mixed with pitch, rofin, oil, or naptha, was wrapped on the end of an Arrow, in the form of a ball; which ball, when in ufe, was fired, and the Arrow directed towards the wooden towers and engines of the enemy; where flicking firmly, communicated a flame to every part near it. This was ufed with great fuccefs in naval expeditions.108

Pliny mentions a fort of bitumenous fubftance, procured from a marfh, which was ufed with great advantage in the defence of towns; for when fixed to Arrows, and enflamed, it ftuck to the engines, and even to the bodies of the enemy, with great force; and it was almoft as eafy to deftroy an army by fire as by fword; for the flame raged with fuch violence, that water was unable to effect its extinction—it rather ferved to encreafe the fury of it.109 Indeed, feveral of thefe preparations appear to be almoft unextinguifhable; and the only method which feems to have proved efficacious, was that of covering the flame with earth.110

Some experienced artifts had a cuftom of expofing oil to the action of the air, till it became thick, like naptha, and in that ftate they anointed their darts with it, feveral fucceffive times, as the different coats became dry and hard. When a fufficient quantity had been put on, the Arrow was ready for ufe, and wanted only the contact of fire to render it doubly formidable.

Ammianus Marcellinus defcribes another kind of fiery Arrow called the Maleolus.It was conftructed, he fays, of cane, or reed, and at the part where the head joined to the body, there was a piece of iron open-work communicating with the middle of the Arrow, which was made hollow, and the cavity filled with combuftible materials. When thefe Arrows were ufed, the fubftance within was enflamed, and after being fhot, flicking to the object, burned with great rapidity whatever came in its way.111

It was ufual in the management of thefe Arrows, to ufe a Bow much lower ftrung than in other cafes, left the velocity of the motion fhould extinguifh the burning matter.

The cuftom of fhooting fiery Arrows feems to have been in practife among many of the early nations of the Eaft: one inftance occurs, (not to mention more) wherein Xerxes made ufe of it againft the Athenians, as related by Herodotus.

The Falarica was another kind of Malleolus, ufually conftructed on a very large fcale, and fhot from the powerful engines. Livy defcribes this inftrument as a long fpear, to which tow and pitch were affixed at the head.112

The favages of America alfo practifed the fhooting of fire affixed to Arrows; and I by accident, in turning over the leaves of Purchafe's Pilgrimage careleffly, met with the following piece of that author's wit, which is to the purpofe. He fays, " The Indians of Carendies, Zeecheuir, and Tiembus, affayled the town of Good-aires, and turned it into good-fires, by fhooting Arrows fired at the end into it.113

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