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Travel Back in Time: The History of the Crossbow

Jul 30, 2008
History does not exactly tell us where and when the crossbow made its way into our civilization. However there is clear evidence this weapon was used during wartime as early as the end of the 4th century B.C. The first evidence of its use can be found with the Greeks followed by the Eurpoeans. China was also using this weapon as early as the 5th century B.C.

The Greeks

In the Greek world the crossbow emerged during the 5th century as a much larger version of the crossbow. It was called the gastraphetes or "belly-bow" because it was built to placed against the stomach of the archer. The manner of loading this bow resulted in more stored energy than the standard bows that were currently being used.

The gastraphetes ws improved upon. This led to the introduction of the ballista. Its use in war and against the enemies infantry resulted in very powerful bolts and larger ballistae. There was a smaller version of this crossbow called the Scorpio. This was used by snipers.

The Use of the Crossbow in Europe

Crossbows were evident in Europe during the battle of Hastings around 1500 AD. As a matter of fact, they replaced the standard longbow as the primary archer's weapon because their use could be learned in about a week vs. the longbow which could take years to master. In addition, the crossbow released a faster and deadlier bolt than the standard bow's arrow. It was also the favored weapon of the peasants.

Asia and the Crossbow

The first indication of crossbows in China comes from documents dated the 4th century BC. These scripts state followers of Mozi used a crossbow catapult in the 6th-5th century BC. In the well known book The Art of War written by Sun Tzu, there is a description of the crossbow and its uses between 500-300 B.C..

Islam and the Crossbow

The Islamic armies adopted the use of this bow after first seeing and experiencing its effect first hand during the crusades. Muslims preferred the footstrap version of this bow during the wars in Spain.

From the Saracens, the Crusaders discovered a composite bow that had layers of different material glued together to increase the strength of the bow. The Eurpoeans adopted this idea for crossbow prods.

America and Africa

Crossbows in Africa were used for hunting and as scout weapons. Africans captured by slavers brought the knowledge of this weapon with them to America. The crossbow became popular in the south and was used extensively for hunting. The Inuit of North America also used lighter versions of the bow for hunting.

The Use of Crossbows in Modern Day

In today's world the crossbow is used mostly for target shooting. There are still societies however that use it for hunting including Australia, Africa and America. The smaller crossbows are used for harmless blubber extraction in whales. And there are some special forces in the military who use this weapon instead of the noiser firearms.
About the Author
At Eagle Archery we are dedicated to providing you with the largest selection of Crossbows on the Internet. We stock over 10,000 products, and are adding more all the time, including but not limited to a great selection of Crossbows .
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