ARCHERY. There are but few amusements that are more conducive to health and pleasing associations in their pursuit, than that of archery, which is of so great antiquity, that at what period and by whom first practised is very uncertain. The heathens attributed the invention of the bow to several persons. Pliny says Scytha, a son of Jupiter, by a daughter of Tellus, found it out; others consider Perses, a son of Perseus and Andromeda, as the inventor : but Diodorus Siculus and the majority assign the honour of the discovery to Apollo, who wore a crown of laurel because he excelled every one in shooting and playing on the lyre. The statue of Apollo Belvidere is supposed by antiquaries to have had a bow in the hand: and the Mythology says Apollo destroyed with arrows the serpent Python, whom Juno had sent to persecute Latona. Certain it is that no instrument has so generally obtained throughout the earth as the bow. This general prevalence makes it doubtful whether more persons than one may not justly lay claim to the invention as their own : we find it in the remotest parts of Asia, and the most northern of Europe; in Africa, also, it is common. The discoverers of the New World, too, found the bow and arrows among the Americans.
It is not improbable, moreover, that Nimrod knew the use of the bow, considering he was a mighty hunter and a man of war. We are certain that the later patriarchs were not ignorant of it (vide Gen. xxi. 20): " and God was with the lad Ishmael; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer." The Grecians, too, were well acquainted with these weapons, and their bow (says Montfaucon) was shaped after the letter 2.
Though we find very little mention of the bow in the Roman armies, yet they often employed auxiliary archers in their wars. Domitian, Commodus, and Theodosius were uncommonly dexterous in the use of the bow. There were masters at Rome to teach the art, among whom was T. Flavius Expeditus, whose image Spon has given from a sepulchral bas relief, where he is called Doctor Sagittarum. Leo ordained that all the youth of Rome should be compelled to use shooting, more or less, and always bear their bow and quiver about with them till they were eleven years old. He also adds: " We strictly command you to make proclamation to all men under our dominion, which be either in war or peace; to all cities and towns; and, finally, to all manner of men—that every free man have bow and arrows of his own, and every house have a bow and forty arrows for every occasion; and that they exercise themselves in holts, hills, dales, woods, and plains, to inure them to all the chances of war."
The Saxons, according to Verstegen, first brought the bow into general use in this country ; and they in all probability derived their knowledge from the Scythians, who were excellent archers.
Camden thus speaks of this fascinating art:—" Amongst all the English artillery, archery challengeth the preeminency as peculiar to our nation, as the sarissa was to the Macedonians; the gesa to the old Gauls; theframeato the Germans; the machoera to the Greeks; first showed to the English by the Danes; brought in by the Normans, and continued by their successors to the great glory of England in achieving victories."
The bow, however, was not confined to martial purposes alone; it was also used in sporting—for birding there was a particular kind of arrow called a bird-bolt. We read that Godfrey of Boulogne broached three swallows upon his arrow at one shot when he commanded in the Holy Land, which being a thing very remarkable, he took the three birds for his coat of arms. William the Conqueror (who had a considerable number of bowmen in his army at the battle of Hastings) was an admirable archer, and was so strong that none but himself could bend the bow he used.
In the ages of chivalry, the use of the bow was considered as an essential part of the education of a young man who wished to make a figure in life. The heroes of romance are, therefore usually praised for their skill in archery; and Chaucer, with propriety, says of Sir Thopas, " He was a good archere."
The fatal accident by which William II. lost his life by an arrow while hunting in the New Forest, is too familiar to the reader to require recital.
Richard Strongbow, Earl of Pembroke, was, as his name implies, a mighty archer: it is said his arms were so long that he could touch bis knees without stooping. This nobleman rendered himself famous by his exploits in Ireland; after reducing that country for Henry II. he died in 1177.
Richard I., when besieging the castle of Chaluze, approached too near the walls, and was killed by an arrow from a cross-bow, on the 8th of March, 1199. It is during the reign of this monarch that we first find mention made of Robert Fitzooth, Earl of Huntingdon, vulgarly called Robin Hood, who, as tradition goes, was the best marksman and stoutest archer of his time.
Edward III. in the fifteenth year of his reign, issued an order to the sheriffs of most of the English counties for providing five hundred white bows and five hundred bundles of arrows for the then intended war against France in 1341. Similar orders were repeated in the following years with this difference only, that the sheriff of Gloucester was directed to furnish five hundred painted bows in addition to the same number of white. At the famous battle of Cressy, in August, 1346, the English are said to have had four thousand archers, who were opposed to fifteen thousand Genoese cross-bowmen. Previously to the engagement there fell a very heavy rain, which is said to have damaged the bows of the ,enemy, or perhaps rather the strings of them., the long-bow, when unstrung, may be most conveniently covered, so as to prevent the rain from injuring it; whereas the arbalist or cross-bow is of a most inconvenient form to be sheltered from the weather. Here the English obtained a complete victory. The battle of Poictiers, in which the French King, John, was taken prisoner, in 1356, was gained also by the superiority of the English archers.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835.
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