The Primitive Crossbow
protect his fingers from being cut. These small leathern guards just
covered the insides of the fingers when the latter were hooked over the
bow-string. The pieces of leather were retained in position, when in use,
by placing the thumbs through holes in their ends.
The primitive crossbows which were strung in this manner could have
been of little power in comparison with those later ones which required
mechanical aid to draw their strings, such as crossbows with composite,
or steel, bows. The former may, however, have been effective at a time
when the bow was little used in Continental warfare, and before the powerful
English longbow came to the front.
The primitive crossbow was, probably, not only a more accurate arm than
the ordinary bow of its period, but also one of a more dangerous nature,
as it projected a much heavier arrow than that of a bow.
The fact that the primitive crossbow (see Anna Comnena, p. 57) required
the utmost strength of both arms to pull back its string, proves that it
must have discharged its missile with considerable force, a force, perhaps,
sufficient to penetrate, at a short range, leathern jackets or even coats