A few interesting archery snippets

The Parting Shot...

The Parthians' favourite tactic was to surround their enemy quickly on horseback, bombarding them with a hail of arrows. If their opponents tried to stand their ground and wait out the onslaught, the Parthians would be resupplied from camels, bearing seemingly endless quantities of ammunition. If the enemy charged, the Parthian archers would make a tactical withdrawal, quickly riding away to a safe distance. They had perfected a technique known as the 'Parthian Shot' - from which the term 'parting shot' derives - a metaphor to describe a barbed insult delivered as one turns and leaves. By using their stirrups to remain stable, riders would turn around in the saddle, face backwards, and fire on their enemy, while riding away.

Excerpted from the book, 'Marcus Aurelius: The Stoic Emperor' by Donald J. Robertson.

Image from a bowl in the British Museum, 460-479 CE

Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is not a modern phenomenon, here is an ancient Chinese poem about the way that pressure to win can affect an archers nerves.

When an archer is shooting for nothing,
He has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle
He is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold
He goes blind
Or sees two targets –
He is out of his senses.

His skill has not changed,
But the prize 
Divides him - He cares,
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting –
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

From Thomas Merton's book - The Way of Chuang Tzu

Fun fact: we all know what a thumbs up gesture means but do you know it actually originated in archery? Many people believe it must have something to do with roman emperors deciding a gladiators fate but this is largely a fiction from the movie world. Medieval English bowmen would measure the brace height of the string on their bow using their fist and elevated thumb - a sort of 'rule of thumb'. With the edge of the fist against the bow grip and the thumb reaching up, it should just touch the bowstring - If it did, all was good and they were ready to shoot.

The first book in print about archery was published in 1545, titled 'Toxophilus - The School of Shooting' by Roger Ascham and it can still be purchased today!

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between two characters, Philologus (meaning: a lover of study) and Toxophilus (meaning: a lover of the bow), who defends archery as a most noble pastime. The book was written in English and dedicated to King Henry VIII. A quote from the author reads, "how honest a pastime for the mind, how wholesome an exercise for the body", a truth that any archer can attest to.

Archery has been around for thousands of years, perhaps up to 70,000 - but just how powerful were those old bows? The English longbow has made a name for itself in history because of its use in several important military encounters, most notably that of the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Unfortunately, because longbows are made of wood (usually from the yew tree) most of them from this period have perished. However, when the wreck of the Marie Rose was found and raised from the seabed (in 1982), it contained a cargo of yew staves and bows, relatively well preserved by the silt and seawater. Some of these have been tested and it seems that the draw weight of these war-bows varied around 60lb to 175lb! If you want more pictures and information there is an website dedicated to these finds at: Marie Rose