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The Crossbow   >   Chapter 10   >  Primitive Crossbow   > p.60

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

The Crossbow

with the right hand, and holding it with the left hand. The user rests both his feet against the bow, whilst he strains at the cord with the full force of his arms. It has a semicircular groove which reaches down the middle of the stock. The missiles, which are of various kinds, are placed in the groove, and propelled along it by the released cord. When the cord is released, the arrow leaves the groove with a force against which nothing is proof. It not only penetrates a buckler, but also pierces the man and his armour through and through.'

In course of time, the metal stirrup was fitted to the fore-end of the stock of the crossbow, as a more convenient and powerful method of bending the bow than the original one of resting the feet against the bow itself, as in fig. 24. The stirrup was the same shape as, and was no doubt suggested by the stirrup of a saddle. The crossbowman placed one foot (in the case of the larger weapons both feet) in the stirrup of his crossbow, and in this way held its stock tight to the ground, in order to resist the pull of his hands on the bowstring, fig. 25, previous page.

In military records of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, I find many allusions to bolts for crossbows of ' one foot' and bolts for those of ' two feet.'1 From this it would appear that the bolts, or the weapons for which the bolts were required, were respectively one foot and two feet long. The explanation is, that the words ' one foot' and ' two feet' refer to the power of the crossbows, the lengths of which were, of course, much more than one or two feet.

The larger crossbow of the period, known as ' Arbalista ad duos Pedes,' could only be strung by the soldier inserting both his feet in its stirrup, the stirrup being made wide enough for him to do this, so that he might utilise his entire weight to resist the strain exerted by his arms when bending his bow.

The smaller crossbow, known as ' Arbalista ad unum Pedem,' was lighter and of less power. For this reason, sufficient resistance was obtained by the man who used it placing one foot in its stirrup when he stretched its bow-string, the stirrup being duly shaped to this end.

Bolts for crossbows of ' two feet' referred, therefore, to the heavier missiles that were shot from the larger weapon, and bolts for crossbows of ' one foot' referred to the lighter shafts intended for the less powerful crossbow.

When a crossbowman bent his bow with his hands alone, as in the case of the weaker weapons, he wore a leathern guard on each hand to

1 October 20, 1301. The king wishing to strengthen the town of Linlithgow, commands the Treasurer and Barons to send there six crossbows a tour with 2,000 quarrels, also twelve crossbows of two feet and 3,000 quarrels, and 5,000 quarrels for crossbows of one foot. - From Calendar of Documents relating to Scotland, No. 1250, Edward I. In 1328, Edward III. orders the Sheriffs of London to supply for the defence of the Channel Islands ' a hundred arcubalisti ad Pedem, and twenty arcubalisti ad Troll' (Rymer's Fcedera, iv. 367).


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