which Vegetius happened to be acquainted. [32], During the late Ming dynasty, no crossbows were mentioned to have been produced in the three-year period from 1619 to 1622. The crossbow is believed to have existed for more than 2000 years, long before gunpowder was invented in China. Called the Sautérelle, this weapon was utilized by both the French and British forces on the Western Front. [69][70][71] Arrow-shooting machines (katapeltai) are briefly mentioned by Aeneas Tacticus in his treatise on siegecraft written around 350 BC. The gastraphetes was powered by a composite bow, and was cocked by resting the stomach in a concavity at the rear of the stock and pressing down with all of the archer’s strength. Earliest European depiction of cavalry using crossbows, from the Catalan manuscript Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, 1086. The trigger mechanism from one crossbow can be installed into another simply by dropping into a tiller slot of the same specifications and secured with dowel pins. From the 13th century onward, European crossbows made use of spanning mechanisms not seen in China such as the pulley, gaffle, cranequin, and screw. European armies used crossbows to good effect, and they became an essential weapon in their battle formations. As far as archaeological finds go, the Terracotta Army buried in the tomb of Qin Shihuang from roughly 221–210 BC were discovered to have handheld crossbows with complex bronze trigger mechanisms. Image credit: Chinese Siege Warfare: Mechanical Artillery & Siege Weapons of Antiquity by Liang Jieming (ISBN 981-05-5380-3). [41], Statue of Cao Lỗ holding the magical crossbow he built for An Dương Vương, The earliest crossbow-like weapons in Europe probably emerged around the late 5th century BC when the gastraphetes, an ancient Greek crossbow, appeared. Perhaps the best supposition is that the crossbow was primarily known in late European antiquity as a hunting weapon, and received only local use in certain units of the armies of Theodosius I, with [9][10] Bronze crossbow bolts dating from the mid-5th century BC have been found at a Chu burial site in Yutaishan, Jiangling County, Hubei Province. [14] Zhuangzi also mentions crossbow bullets. The earliest examples of the handheld crossbow had a stock and a trigger made from bronze. [76], On the textual side, there is almost nothing but passing references in the military historian Vegetius (fl. Others are simple long stocks with the crossbow mounted on them. There are no references to crossbows in Islamic texts earlier than the 14th century. Writers during the Han Dynasty attributed much of the success in battles against the Xiongnu to massed crossbow volleys. Want to have the lavishly illustrated, premium-quality print edition of MHQ delivered directly to you four times a … By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. "The Book of the Crossbow". Needham (1986), Volume 5, Part 6, 124–128. In the American South, the crossbow was used by the conquistadors for hunting and warfare when firearms or gunpowder were unavailable because of economic hardships or isolation.[83]. Paul Beaver of Jane's defence publications commented that, "They are not only a silent killer, they also have a psychological effect". Frequently, Geonese crossbowmen were employed as mercenaries by the English and French, among others, and it is in a battle involving these soldiers-for-hire that we see crossbows once again playing a major role. Anna Commena, daughter of the Byzantium emperor Alexius I, wrote in The Alexiad of seeing such weapons in action. Chinese repeating crossbow with pull lever and automatic reload magazine. By the twelfth century, in fact, the use of the crossbow had superceded the use of hand bows, because the crossbow could be used effectively after just a week of training, compared to the years of practice required to achieve the same single-shot skill with the longbow. the trigger blade] so called because it looks like one. [63][non-tertiary source needed] These are technologically similar to the African derived crossbows, but have a different route of influence. There are grooves in the stock. Sun Tzu's The Art of War (first appearance dated between 500 BC to 300 BC[20]) refers to the characteristics and use of crossbows in chapters 5 and 12 respectively,[21] and compares a drawn crossbow to "might". There is some mention of the crossbow being used during Biblical times, as described above. However, by the 13th century European crossbows began transitioning to composite bows as well, increasing their draw weight. The device was described by the Greek author Heron of Alexandria in his Belopoeica ("On Catapult-making"), which draws on an earlier account of his compatriot engineer Ctesibius (fl. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. The repeating crossbow was introduced to Korea by King Sejong (1418–1450), who saw the weapon and was impressed by its mechanism during a trip to China. However, the Roman Empire began to fall, and this led to a reduction in the usage of the Ballista, which was replaced by the Springfield, which was cheap and smaller and worked with inward swinging arms. A four-wheeled ballista drawn by armored horses, from an engraving illustrating a 1552 edition of De Rebus Bellicis. Illustrations of Leonardo da Vinci's rapid fire crossbow in the 15th Century Codex Atlanticus. In the third century BC, the repeating crossbow made its appearance once more in Greece. It was known as the polybalos. [1], The crossbow superseded hand bows in many European armies during the 12th century, except in England, where the longbow was more popular. It might have been developed in Asia and brought to Europe by early explorers, or possibly it was developed simultaneously on both continents. The composite crossbow is also known to have been used in Greece in about the fourth century BC. [8], ...the Chinese made much more extensive use of the crossbow as an infantry weapon than the Byzantines did, and the Chinese crossbow was a more sophisticated device than its Western counterpart. Crossbows continued to take a prominent role on the battlefield of European nations other than England. In China the crossbow was one of the primary military weapons from the Warring States period until the end of the Han dynasty, when armies composed of up to 30 to 50 percent crossbowmen were not unheard of. [40][41] Crossbows and archery while mounted were instructed to the Cham by a Chinese in 1171. [8], The lath, also called the prod, is the bow of the crossbow. [57] Along with polearm weapons made from farming equipment, the crossbow was also a weapon of choice for insurgent peasants such as the Taborites. A very powerful weapon, it was described as being an invention of the devil, because of its ability to penetrate armor and, likely, its prohibition by the Catholic church. In 759 AD, Li Quan described a type of multiple bolt crossbow capable of destroying ramparts and city towers: The arcuballista is a crossbow of a strength of 12 dan, mounted on a wheeled frame. It’s worth noting that the most commonly imagined siege warcraft machine, the torsion catapult, did not come to fruition until between 338 and 326 BC. A crossbow is essentially a bow mounted on an elongated frame (called a tiller or stock) with a built-in mechanism that holds the drawn bow string, as well as a trigger mechanism that allows the string to be released. Most scholars agree that at least one of these terms refers to handheld mechanical weapons, but they aren’t sure whether the devices were flexion bows or torsion powered, like the recent Xanten find of remainders of manuballista. These bows featured a winched pull-back system, and were capable of throwing two projectiles at the same time. In the second version the stirrup was still used, but a hand crank or winch drew back the string. The Ballista, as certain crossbows were referred to, were also used to defend fortifications such as a castle or a ship.

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