Reply To: Bow and Crossbow


The bow was dominate before the use of heavy armor became commonplace

Bow newer was dominate in the European warfare, unless steppe nomads came invading from the east here and there. Use of longbow during 100 years war was rare exception. One which moreover did not last even till the end of the war itself. “English” (in reality French kings which happened to be at the same time also kings of England) steadily decreased use of longbowmen in their armies till it was negligible.

and you had a faster rate of fire than xbows.

That very questionable claim. Theoretically you indeed can fire bow faster. But that’s meaningless parameter. You almost newer want to fire all your arrows as fast as you can in as short time as possible in real battle. Mostly because just like today, the one to expend his ammo first is the one to loose. Fire rate in the real battle is dictated by ammo (in this case arrows/bolts) supply. Also because goal of archery is not to fire as fast as possible, it’s rather to hit the target.

Xbows inevitably became more powerful

Another misconception. In reality the most powerful crossbows and the most powerful bows were about equal in power (with bows having better performance at range due to characteristics of arrow).

one of the popes tried to ban the use of xbows because they killed heavily armored knights with ease before they could get into melee.

That’s true, but not because xbows could kill heavily armored knights. Knives, clubs, swords, bows, spears could also kill heavily armored knight, yet nobody have banned them.

The advantage of the crossbow over all other weapons wasn’t some unheard of power or penetration, it was the fact that it required almost no training to kill knight with it. You could give it to any peasant in the evening, show him how to load it, what end to point at the enemy and in the morning he could kill your knight.

No other weapon could do that. Melee weapons because weapon itself was not enough, you needed also skill to actually land it on the knight. Given how much training average knight received, average farmer had no chance.

In case of bow you did not need that sort of training, firing bow is simple enough and there is no skill which can make knight dodge arrow. However what you needed to fire the most powerful bows able to pierce heavy armor is sheer physical strength or your arms. It takes years of constant training to build muscle power needed to draw warbows such as ones used during 100 Years War. Untrained person simply can not draw such bows. Skeletons ow bowmen in the shipwreck of English warship Marry Rose actually had bone deformations similar to those of modern professional athletes.

It’s important to understand that early feudal order in Europe rested on the ability of elite -the nobility to maintain monopoly on use of force. Nobles were ones who could afford constant military training (and equipment, but training was actually more important), something which allowed them to dominate other members of the society who could not afford it simply because they had to dedicate most of their time to get enough food for themselves and their families. They could not afford to waste time on military training. Crossbow was disliked because it challenged status quo. It was not some Medieval wonder weapon and it wasn’t significantly more effective then bow. It also did not made crossbowman superior to the knight. But it did allow lowly peasant to challenge knight under certain conditions. That’s why they tried to ban it. And then only against Christians. You could fill infidels with bolts till your heart’s content.

Even earlier, the Romans used a “testudo” or tortoise formation to protect the unit from all sides and above from missiles.

We don’t know what “testudo” used by Romans was. They newer bothered to describe it in their writings. All there is are pure speculations. And what you see in the Hollywood movies is almost certainly wrong. Just like most else you see in the Hollywood movies.