John Bingham- The Tactiks of Aelian, 1616

P24-27

Archers haue alwayes beene of speciall esteeme for the field, and preferred before the other kindes of light-armed. Many nations haue beene commended for theire skill in shooting. Emongest the Graecians the Cretans were (of ancient time) sole archers, as Pausanias witnesseth. Yet was not theire service aequall with the service of the Persians. For Xenophon confesseth, that the Persian bowe overreached the Cretan a great way: and that the Rhodians with theire sling owt-threw the Cretan bow. Of the Carduchans a people, through whose Countrey the Graecians passed at theire returne out of Persia, Xenophon writeth thus: They caried noe other armes, then bowes and slinges. They were excellent archers; and had bowes well nighe three cubits long; arrowes more, then two Cubits. When they shotte, they drewe the string, applieng theire hand some what toward the neither end of the bowe, setting theire left foote foreward. With theire arrowes they pierced both targets, and Curates. The Graecians putting thonges to the middest of theire arrowes sent them back at the enemy in steede of Dartes. The same in effect is reported by Diodorus Siculus. Of the Parthian horsemen, Appian saith: When Crassus commaunded the light-armed to disband, & goe to the charge, they went not farre, but meeting with many arrowes, and being sore galled with them, they retired streight, and hid themselues emongest the armed, and gaue beginning of disorder, and feare, repraesenting to the sight of the rest, the force, and violence of the shotte, that rent all armes, they fell vppon, and made way aswell thorough bodies, that had the best, as the worst furniture defensiue: giving mighty and violent strokes from stiffe and great bowes, and forcing out the arrowe boisterously with the compasse, and bent of the bowe. Plutarch hath the very wordes, that are in Appian. The Indians also were good archers, albeit not much praised by Q. Curtius. Hee saith: theire arrowes were two Cubits long, which they deliver out of theire bowes, with more labour, then effect: for as much as the arrow, whose whole efficacy is in lightnesse, becometh altogether vnwieldy by reason of the weight. And yet hee telleth, that Alexander, at the assault of the principall City of the Mallians, was strooke thorough his Curace into the side beneath the pappes with an In∣dian arrowe: with whome Plutarch and Diod. Siculus accord. Arrian addeth the wound was so deep, that his breath was seene to issue out together with his blood. The Gothes and other people of the north, that invaded the Roman empire, had theire chiefe victories against the Romans by the help of bowes, and arrowes. Vegetius (before alleaged) speaketh it plainely: So our souldiers, saith hee, vnarmed both bodies and heads, encountring with the Gothes, were oftentimes wholy defeated, and slaine, with the multitude of theire arrowes. I may not pretermitte the praise of our nation in this skill. Our owne stories testify, that the great battailes, we gayned against the french, were gayned by the ioint-shooting of our archers principally. And that the English haue heretofore excelled in archery & shooting, is cleere by the testimony even of Strangers. Cicuta (whom I named before) commending the vse of bows, as necessary for the service of the field (& that long after gunnes were invented) praeferreth the English before all other, and setteth him downe, as a patterne for other to follow. And Patritius, disputing of the violence of arrows, doubteth not to affirme, that an English arrowe with a litle waxe put vpon the point of the head, wil passe through any ordinary Corslette or Curace. Howsoever the credit of bowes is lost, at this present, with many great souldiers, yet haue they of auncient time been highly prised. Vegetius saith; how great advantage good archers bring in fight, both Cato in his bookes of military discipline doth shewe evidently, and Claudius, by augmenting the number of archers, and teaching of them the vse of theire bowes, overcame the enemy, whome before hee was not able to matche. Scipio Africanus (the yonger) being to giue battaile to the Numantines, that before had forced a Roman army to passe vnder the yoake, thought hee could not otherwise haue the better, vnlesse hee mingled chosen archers in euery. And Leo the Emperour in his Constitutions military hath this Constitution ongest other: You shall commund all the Roman youth, till they come to fourty yeares of age, whether they haue meane skill in shooting, or not, to cary bowes & quivers of arrowes. For since the art of shooting hath been neglected, many, & great losses haue befallen the Romans. And in another place: you shall enioyne the Commaunders vnder you, in winter to take a view, and to signify to the Turmches (Coronells) how many horse, & what kinde of armes the souldiers, vnder their commaundes, stand in need of, that necessary provision bee made, & the souldiers be furnished in time convenient. But specially you are to haue care of archers; & that they, whoe remaine at home, & haue vacation from warre, hold bowes and arrowes in their howses. For carelessnesse heerin hath brought great dammage to the Roman State. So Leo. This of ould time was the opinion of the Romans concerning archers. Howe wee are fallen out with them in our dayes (the skill of the bowe, being a quality so commendable, and so proper to our nation) I knowe not, vnlesse fire-weapons perhaps haue put them out of countenance. And surely it may not bee denied, that the force of fireweapons of our time doth farre exceed the height of all old inventions for anoyeng the enemy. And, when I haue given them the first place, I will not doubt to giue the second to bowes and arrowes being so farre from casting them of, that I would rather fol∣low the wisdome of the Graecians; whoe albeit they esteemed arrowes the best flieng weapons, yet thought it not amisse to hold in vse slinges, and dartes- Every weapon hath it property; and that which is fitte for one service, is not so fitte for another. The fireweapons haue theire advantages; They haue also theire disadvantages. Theire advantage is, they pierce all defence of armour, and lighting vpon a place of the body, the wound whereof endaungereth life, they bring with them certeine death. Theire disadvantages are, they are not alwayes certeine, sometimes for want of charging, sometimes through over charging, sometimes the bullet rowling out, sometimes for want of good powder, or of dryed powder, sometimes because of an ill dryed matche, not fitte to coale, or not well cocked. Besides they are somewhat long in charging, while the musketier takes downe his musket, vncockes the matche, blowes, proynes, shuttes, casts of the pan, castes about the musket, opens his charges, chargeth, drawes out his sticke, rammes in the powder, drawes out againe, and puts vp his skowring stick, layes the musket on the rest, blowes of the matche, cockes, and tryes it, gardes the pan, and so makes ready. All which actions must necessarily bee observed, if you will not faile of the true vse of a musket. In raine, snowe fogges, or when the enemy hath gayned the winde, they haue small vse. Adde that but one ranke (that is the first) can giue vpon the enemy at once. For the rest behinde, discharging, shall either wound theire owne Companions before, or else shoote at randon, and so nothing endaunger the enemy, the force of a musket being onely availeable at point blanck. Contrary wise the disadvantage of arrowes is in the weaknesse of the stroke; which is not able to enter a Curace, that the foote or horse nowe vse. Yet can noe weather bee founde, where in you may not haue good vse of bowes: raine, snowe, winde, haile, fogges, hinder litle (especially the string of the bowe being not to wette) may rather profit Because in them you can hardly discerne, much lesse avoide, the fall of the arrowe. As for quicknesse in delivery the bowe farre excelleth the musket. A good single archer is able to giue fiue shotte in exchange for one of the musketier; and that with such certainty, that you shall not heare of an archer that misseth the delivery of his arrow, where the musketier, often faileth by reason of the accidents and impediuients before by mee rehearsed. Ioine that a whole squadron of archers, being embattailed, may shoote at once together: which onely the first ranke of musketiers may doe. And make the case there were a hundred musketters, and a hundred bowe-men eche digested into ten files, eche file conteyning ten men, the bowe men shall bee able to shoote at once a hundred arrowes (all theire arrowes) for ten bullets given by the musketiers, namely those ten of the first ranke discharging alone. It must not bee pretermitted, that the bowe and quiver both for marching, & all service, are lighter and of lesse labour to vse, then a musket, which is noe small advantage in armes and fight. To conclude the bowe-men may bee placed behinde the armed foote, and yet in shooting over the Phalange anoy the enemy before ioyning, and all the time of fight, even whilest they are at pushe of pike; where the musketier, there placed, must either idlely look on, or else playeng with his musket, most of all endaunger his owne friendes. Neither is the force of arrowes so weake, as is immagined, noe not in the arming of our dayes. For the pike albeit hee haue his head and body covered, yet are his legges, and feete, his armes, and handes open to woundes: any of which parts being wounded bringes a disability of service. To say nothing of his face, and eyes, before which the showers of arrowes falling like a tempest without intermission, must needes breed a remedilesse terrour, and make him thinke rather of saving himselfe, then offending his enemy. The musketier being also vnarmed is as subiect to the shotte of arrowes, as the archer is to the shotte of the musket; and the arrow touching any vitall parte, as much taketh away life, as doth the musket. Lastly a horse-man for his owne person (I must confesse) is safe enough from the daunger of arrowes by reason of his armour but his horse, being a faire and large mark, and having neither barbe, nor pectorall, nor ought else to hide his head or breast, how can hee escape woundes? Witnesse our fieldes in France, where our Archers alwayes beate the frenche horse, being barbed, and better armed, then our horse are, at this day. And for the bloudy effect of bowes the story of Plutarch is worth the rehersing. He, in the life of Crassus hath thus: The Parthians opposing the Cataphracts against the Roman horse, the other Persians galloping heer and there dispersedly, and troubling the face of the field, broke vp from the bottom, hills of sand, that raised infinite dust, whereby the Romans lost theire sight and voice: and thronging together, & thrusting one another were wounded, and died not a simple, or quicke deathe, but tormented with convulsions and panges of grief, wallowing vp, and downe, in the sande to breake the arrowes in theire woundes, or else endevouring to pluck out the hooked heades, which had pierced vaines and sinewes, renting a freshe themselues, & adding torment to torment: so that many died in this manner, & the rest became vnprofitable. And when Publius Crassus desired them once more to charge the Cataphracts, they shewed theire handes nailed to their targets, and theire feete fastened to the grownde, whereby they were vnable either to fly, or fight. These wonders did the Parthian bowes, which notwithstanding were not to bee compared to our auncient English bowes, either for strength, or farre shooting. And that wee may not seeme to rely vpon antiquity alone. The battaile of Curzolare (commonly called the battaile of Lepanto) fought in our dayes betwixt the Turkes, & Christians by sea may serue for an experience of the service of bowes and arrowes. In which there died of the Christians by the arrowes of the Turkes aboue siue thowsand, albeit they were in galleyes and ships, and had theire blindes pretended to saue from sight, and mark of the Turks, where as the artillery of all sorts of the Christians consumed not so many Turkes: notwithstanding the Christians had the victory. Nowe then for vs to leaue the bowe, being a weapon of so great efficacy, so ready, so familiar, and as it were so domesticall to our nation, to which wee were wont to bee accustomed from our Cradle, because other nations take themselues to the Musket, hath not so much as any shewe of reason. Other nations may well for beare that, they never had. Neither Italian, nor Spaniard, nor Frenche, nor Dutche, had these fiue hundred years, been accounted Archers. It was a skill almost appropriated to our nation. By it, wee gayned the battailes of Cressy, of Poitiers, of Agincourt, in France: of Navarre, in Spaine: By it, wee made our selues famous over Christendome. And to giue it over vpon a conceit onely (for noe experience can say that our bowe was ever beaten out of the field by the musket) will proue an immitation of Aesops dogge, whoe carieng a piece of fleshe in his mouth over a river, and seing the shadowe in the water, snatched at the shadowe, and left the fleshe. I speake not this to a base the service of muskets, which all men must acknowledge to bee great; I onely shewe, there may bee good vse of bowes, if our archers were such, as they were wont: which is not to bee dispaired, and will easily come with exercise.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s