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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter X: Of Targets
Chapter X
Of Targets.
Part 1 of 2

At the time when wars were almoft perpetual, and the hunting of wild beafts neceffary, Archers could feldom be at a lofs for living objects againft which to direct their Arrows; but as thefe opportunities, in the progrefs of civilization, became lefs and lefs frequent, men had then recourfe to ftationary Targets, at which to try their fkill, and exercife their art.

The heroic games instituted of old, tended effectually to preferve and cherifh in peace, thofe accomplifhments neceffary in war; and the Palm, held out to the victorious in thefe combats, excited and fpread that emulation and pride, front which all great efforts originate. Hence the Arena has ever been efteemed the fchool of valour and of martial virtues.

Archery, it muft be confeffed, did not hold any confpicuous place among thefe exhibitions, at leaft rarely. I know not, indeed, of any inftance among the Greeks, though among the Romans there are feveral.

It does not appear, I believe, from any exprefs affertion, that the ancient Greeks had any particular places fet afide for the ufe of Archers; we may infer, however, that fuch exifted, from hints to be found in the claffic writers.

The guard of Athens confided chiefly of Archers, as did originally the Artillery Company of London; and it is not unreafonable to fuppofe, there may have been a Finfbury in Greece, as well as in England.125

Xenophon clearly mentions the ancient Butts;126 and a line in Æfchylus intimates that Archers were accuftomed to fhoot at them.127

The Perfians of old practifed at Shields formed of raw hides, or fometimes of folid wood, which their Arrows pierced without difficulty.128

With refpect to the Roman manners, Vegetius tells us that there were places in which the Archers and flingers exercifed, and where Butts were erected for the foldiers to aim at.

Thefe Butts, or Targets, were fometimes fingle pods only, fometimes they were made of faggot , or fheaves of ftraw, and were ufually placed at the diftance of a ftadium, (or about fix hundred feet) from the place in which the fhooter ftood.129

Thefe exercifes were regulated by particular laws, and under the infpection of mafters.130 One law was fimilar to a privilege granted by Henry VIII. to the Finfbury Archers; I mean, an indemnification from the charge of murder, if any perfon fhooting, fhould kill another paffing between him and the Butt. This was enjoyed by the Roman Archers and flingers; but the Aquilian law denied the fame to thofe who ufed the other weapons, fuch as the pilurn, javelin, or plumbatum.131

The moft extraordinary circumftance with refpect to the objects at which Archers directed . their Arrows, occurs in an old French law. I am inclined to think, that it was a cuftom to drefs perfons over with a number of fhields, and to fhoot at them thus clad, as Targets. In order to prevent this, Dacobert inftituted a law, in the year 630, inflicting. a penalty of forty fhillings for each offence.132

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