The crossbow has long been a weapon of war as well as a hunting tool and ancient Roman crossbows were used during Roman times. It's most popular use was as a weapon used in times of war. It was in use by the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans, as well as in other areas of Europe and Asia.
The crossbow is composed of a bow that is built onto a stock that will shoot missiles. The barbed or pointed missiles are essentially small arrows, but are often called a quarrel or a bolt.
In ancient Rome the title of the crossbow is still a subject of debate among those who study the period. The medieval crossbow, of course later in time, was similar to the weapons which are described by Roman writers such as Vegetius who tells of a weapon that fired smaller arrows. Depending on who you're reading the name of the items differs.
They are called arcuballista and manuballista,and sometimes cheiroballistra.Most students of Roman history do agree that they are speaking of bows, no one really knows which name was given to the manually drawn bow and which to the crossbow weaponry of the time.
Arrian--or Arian-- has records of cavalry training where the crossbow, or a mechanical bow weapon was being used by soldiers from the backs of horses, while there are sculptures in Roman Gaul which show the use of the crossbow for hunting as well as fighting.
These Roman crossbows are nearly identical to the medieval crossbow so it must be assumed that they are by and large the same weapon.
The medieval-and of course later-- crossbow was generally referred to as a ballista which came from an engine that looked very much like it.Historically, crossbows have played a vastly important part in warfare down through the centuries. Ancient Greeks and Romans used a crossbow that was essentially a bow fitted onto a stick and did look a great deal like the medieval variety..
The most early type of crossbow seen had a slot in them, and the string was put down into the slot. To fire the crossbow the hole had a vertical type rod that was set through it that forced the string to come out.
Later, as the design became more advanced, a cylinder was added which was called a nut. The nut may have been made of bone, antler, or brass. Plates of the same materials helped to hold the nut into place. What it did was act as a roller for the crossbow.
Crossbow strings were generally made of the toughest sinew that could be found They had to be able to withstand the shot pull and not fray when in constant use.
The trigger system was built of metal, generally also brass from medieval times upward.
The earlier bows of Roman and Greek times were built of just a single piece of wood. Usually it was made of yew or ash wood and were bound together with animal sinew, although some composite types were found made of several types of materials at the same time. The trigger mechanisms even from the days of ancient China were quite complex systems of bronze that also contained a safety catch or notch to avoid accidents. They made the crossbow able to be released by those who had far less strength and so, although the longbow actually shot further and faster, the crossbow could be used by those who lacked the strength to deal with the pull of a regular bow.
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