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Home > Books > An Essay on Archery > Chapter XI: On the Englifh Long-Bow.
Chapter XI
On the Englifh Long-Bow.
Part 2 of 12

It is pretty certain, however, that the inhabitants of Britain, did not make ufe of this weapon in battle, at the time Julius Caefar firft vifited this country, as it is not enumerated among the arms of the natives, in the minute defcription of them, given by that author.

The Romans, it is probable, introduced the Bow as a military weapon into Britain, as Archers often formed a great part of their auxiliary troops. The battles between the Romans and our countrymen, as defcribed by Caefar, do not, however, appear to have been carried on by the affiftance of it. But from the fecond book of the Commentaries, we find, that Caefar had both Numidian and Cretan Archers in his army, when he encountered the Belgae, in Gaul;134 and it is reafonable to fuppofe, that he alfo made ufe of them among his troops, when in Britain, about two years afterwards.

During the reigns which fucceeded that of Julius Caefar, and when the Romans had fettled themfelves on this ifland, Archers are frequently made mention of as part of their troops;135 and it is probable, that the reinforcements often fent to the army in Britain, included many Archers, as they would be employed with advantage againft a people, to whom the ufe of the Bow was not familiar.

We may therefore conclude, from the authority of Hiftory, that the Romans introduced the Bow into this country; and that they continued it in ufe to their final departure, about the year four hundred and forty eight.136

In North Britain, the Bow appears to have been known at leaft as early, as it was in the. South; the works of Boethius and other hiftorians of that country feem thus to intimate.

If the poems of Offian may be brought as evidence with refpect to the ftate of Archery in later times, we may perceive that they uniformly reprefent the Bow, as an attendant on the warrior and hunter. We learn alfo from fome paffages in thefe poems, that the Yew tree was then employed to form thefe weapons; " Go to thy cave my love till our battle ceafe on the field. Son of Leith, bring the Bows of our fathers! the founding quiver of Morni! Let our three warriors bend the Yew.137

Immediately on the Britons 'finding themfelves deferted by the Romans, they fought affiftance from the Saxons, againft their enemies the Scots; who haftening to their relief, entered this ifland with an army, about the year four hundred and forty nine. Thefe people are faid to have ufed both the long and crofs Bows, and we may therefore be led to conclude, that Archery was ftill cherifhed in this country by the new invaders.

During the Saxon Heptarchy, we find that Offrid, the fon of Edwin, king of Northumbria, was killed by an Arrow, in a battle between the troops of that king and the united army of Mercians and Welfh, which was fought, about the year fix hundred and thirty three, near Hatfield in the Weft riding of Yorkfhire. But except this factt, little relating to the Bow appears in our annals of the Saxon aera.

The Danes, as they arrived at a later period than the Saxons, come next under our review. Thefe warlike people were accuftomed to the ufe of Archery in battle, and we find it often noticed in this period, by our early chronicle writers. About the year eight hundred and feventy, they became very formidable, and committed great depredations on the inhabitants of Eaft Anglia. In one of their battles with the Eaft Angles, they overcame their enemies, and took prifoner Edmund, king of that part of the ifland, whom, after infulting with many indignities, they bound to a flake, for the Danifh Archers and Javelinmen to aim at; putting him to death by that cruel and ignominious expedient.138

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