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crossbows-lnks – 6/4/04


A set of web links to information on medieval crossbows by Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon.


NOTE: See also the files: crossbows-msg, Iolos-book-rev, p-archery-msg, crossbow-FAQ, Arrow-Matchng-art, arch-shoots-msg, arch-supplies-msg, T-Arch-Child-art.





This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.


This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.


The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given by the individual authors.


Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).


Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org



From: Lis <liontamr at ptd.net>

Date: March 7, 2004 9:51:21 AM CST

To: Stefan li Rous <StefanliRous at austin.rr.com>

Subject: Links: Historical Crossbows


Chronology of the Crossbow


(Site Excerpt)

*986 CE --- 'Lock bows' used in the battle of Hjorungsvag.

ca. 1000 CE --- The crossbow comes into wide use.

11 th. century CE --- Tiller is grooved to hold bolt (Wilkinson-Latham, p. 170)

*1066 CE --- Crossbows reintroduced into England by the Normans.

*1096 CE --- Anna Comnena records the use of crossbows in that year by the



Crossbow History and Information Copyright 1997-2003 Archery Society


(Site Excerpt) Literary and physical evidence suggest that the crossbow

first appeared in China during the 4th century BC. It wasn't until the 10th

or 11th centuries AD that the crossbow became a significant military weapon

in Europe. It passed from general military service in the 16th century, but

its use for hunting and target shooting has continued to the present day.

The most of following chronology is abridged from GUIDE TO THE CROSSBOW by



Articles from the Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries


18 articles including a bibliography. Not necessarily cross-bows, but it's a

terrific site so I couldn't resist!


BBC Online: Beyond the Broadcast--Making History

Richard the Lionheart and the crossbow (note: does not appear to have a

copyright notice but is specifically NOT copyrighted by BBC)


(Site Excerpt) Brian Parker from Pontypridd wanted to know whether the

archers who accompanied Richard I on the Third Crusade (1189-1192) were

armed with longbows or crossbows. Making History consulted Wendy Hodkinson,

Keeper of the Simon Archery Collection at Manchester Museum. The crossbow

goes back at least as far as the sixth century BC in China, though bows and

arrows were used for hunting (and probably for war) as early as Palaeolithic

times. The Romans knew of the crossbow but its use was not widespread in

Europe until the end of the first millennium. It was supposed to have come

to or been reintroduced to Britain with William the Conqueror at the Battle

of Hastings in 1066. For the next century at least armies all over the

continent had crossbowmen. Pope Innocent II called the crossbowman's skill a

'deadly art, hated by God'.


The Crossbow in the Medieval Period       copyright The Beckoning ? 2004


(Site Excerpt) A BRIEF WORD ABOUT CROSSBOWS The crossbow played an important

role in the late Medieval period. The crossbow was really the first

hand-held weapon that could be used by an untrained soldier to injure or

kill a knight in plate armour. The most powerful crossbows could penetrate

armour and kill at 200 yards. Crossbows are easier to aim than longbows

because the crossbowman doesn't have to use a hand to hold the string back

while aiming. (For more information on crossbows versus longbows, go HERE.)

On a similar note, a crossbow can be loaded long before the bowman might

need to shoot. In this way, the bowman would be able to shoot immediately if

surprised. Crossbows require less upper body strength to operate as well.

One can use both arms to span (draw back) a crossbow. Crossbows do, of

course, come with a price. That price is in efficiency and in the firing

rate. Efficiency is a more technical problem.


ExtremelySharp.com's Cross Bow Aiming and Hunting Techniques


History and terms are also included ont his site. (Site Excerpt from

Crossbow Terms:)

Crossbow terminology is not altogether standardized and one should not be

too pedantic about it.

      ARBALIST Latin language term for crossbow, derived from arcuballista

(also spelled ARBALEST).

      ARMBRUST German language term for crossbow which is often preferred in

international circles.

      ARROW Synonym for bolt which is preferred by some modern crossbow


      BACK  Side of bow or lath facing target.

      BALLISTA Roman seige engine similar to oversized crossbow.

      BARREL Section of the stock between the latch and lath; sometimes used

as synonym for track.

      BARRELED CROSSBOW Crossbow having a tubular barrel rather than a

track; used to shoot balls, usually of lead; synonym for slurbow.

      BASTARD STRING String to brace a crossbow for installation of

bowstring; synonym for bracing string.

      BELLY  Side of bow or lath facing shooter.



Reccomended Reading:

The Book of the Crossbow by Ralph Payne-Gallwey

ISBN 0486287203 currently in print Dover Publications


AG Pitts Crossbow Page (copyright A.G.Pitts m/k/a Aileen)


(Site Excerpt) Crossbows have been maligned, hated, outlawed, and condemned

at all stages of history by one group or another. Yet they survive because

they work! But to get the most out of them, you will have to put time into

them. Probably 80% of handbow scores are accomplished at the range itself.

80% of crossbow scores are done in preparation at home before you ever get

to the range. Setting things up right and being consistent is everything in

a crossbow.


Knightsedge.com Medieval Crossbows  Copyright 1994 - 2004 Knights Edge Ltd


(Note that there are some great tiny reproductions (decorative, w/photos) on

this page but I can't vouch for their quality. Site Excerpt) Romans used

crossbows as early as the forth century, however evidence of their use has

be found in other parts of the world as well. Crossbows were first brought

to England by the Normans in 1066 and soon became an important weapon in

history. These Medieval Crossbows were used in open warfare as well as for

hunting and were widely employed in England through the time of Elizabeth.

In fact, the large crossbow was more powerful than any longbow and whereas

the lighter crossbows were quite effective for use in the field by armor

clad soldiers,  the large and giant crossbow were used in the attack and

defense of fortified places such as castles.




(Site Excerpt) In the manner of handbows of the same period, early Western

crossbows featured wood laths and long power strokes (compared to later

examples.) The most common latch mechanism was a rotating nut of bone, ivory

or antler. To achieve greater power, massive "composite" laths made from

sinew, horn or baleen, and wood came into use; these were shorter and much

stiffer than earlier wood laths. As draw weights increased, new methods and

devices for spanning had to be employed, which included the cord and pulley,

belt claw, "goat's foot", bending lever, cranequin and windlass. Steel laths

later provided even greater power. Spanning devices made reloading a slow

process compared with hand bows. Crossbows were more useful for hunting and

siegecraft than in open battle, where their slow rate of fire was a serious



[gurps] Question about crossbows & longbows (From an archive of messages)

(c) Volker Bach, 2000


(Site Excerpt) A crossbow, at the simplest level, consists of a bow mounted


on a stock fitted with a trigger mechanism to hold back and release the

bowstring. These elements form the 'cross' (more commonly a T-shape) that

gives it its English name. Many crossbows are equipped with grooves to

guide their arrows or bolts, nocks or spring mechanisms to hold them in

place and

various mechanical devices to draw back the bowstring. Some have sights or,

in the case of very modern weapons, scopes mounted on them.



Come with bows bent and with emptying of quivers,

  Maiden most perfect, lady of light,

With a noise of winds and many rivers,

  With a clamour of waters, and with might;

Bind on thy sandals, O thou most fleet,

Over the splendour and speed of thy feet;

For the faint east quickens, the wan west shivers,

  Round the feet of the day and the feet of the night.

----Algernon Charles Swinburne. 1837-1909

Chorus from 'Atalanta' (a work celebrating, amongst other things, spring)


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org