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Old July 17th, 2011, 04:28 PM   #1

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Roman and Celtic Crossbows


The ancient Romans apparently used a small crossbow for hunting, and by the 4th Century CE may have also adopted it as a light infantry weapon. Likewise, there are apparently Pictish stones dating to the 3rd-5th Centuries that depict crossbows being utilized.

I am under the impression that the crossbow was invented in China. Did this weapon spread to the West via China in the first few centuries CE, or did the Romans and/or Celts invent it independently?
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Old July 17th, 2011, 10:51 PM   #2
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Ancient Greeks were already using crossbow since 5th ct. and as much as I know it was their invention. Romans might get it from them.

Gastraphetes:

Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

[ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlxU6FUlNZU"]‪The Greek Gastraphetes‬‏ - YouTube[/ame]
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Old July 18th, 2011, 10:26 AM   #3

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Great vid!
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Old July 18th, 2011, 10:57 AM   #4

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It is of course possible that the cross bow was invented in two different geographic locations entirely seperately, and that one did not neccessarily stem from one to the other.
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Old May 15th, 2012, 01:43 PM   #5

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*Bump*

Would like to see more Historumites' opinions on this subject.
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Old May 16th, 2012, 01:26 PM   #6

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Pictish crossbows in the 3rd-5th Century?!?!? Do you have a link or pics I'd love to see that. As far as the Roman crossbow is concerned, it appears to be an indigenous design. As far as I know there's no evidence for the spread of the crossbow from the Han to any of the people living between them and Rome. Also, if I remember correctly, Roman and Han crossbows were designed very differently.

HowStuffWorks "How Crossbows Work"

The first page of this article has a diagram illustrating the difference between the Han and Roman trigger mechanisms.
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Old May 16th, 2012, 05:45 PM   #7

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The Romans presumably had the manuballista, which would have been the most powerful handheld crossbow ever as it was not based on tension but on torsion:

this reconstruction has a 100% iron frame:
Click the image to open in full size.

while this has a wooden frame reinforced with iron:
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmVmDKiZHeE]Manuballista: Der LWL veranstaltete im LWL-Römermuseums in Haltern, die Römertage 2010 - YouTube[/ame]

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Old April 16th, 2017, 06:06 AM   #8
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The invention of the crossbow likely has happened in most cultures, though in most it would of been an impractical curiosity. To make a bow one needs to put the bow on a tillering board to balance the limbs - essentially it looks like a crossbow on it one just needs to come up with some sort of trigger. The Chinese invented the best trigger, but it did not spread to Europe until the real Middle Ages.

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Old April 16th, 2017, 10:21 PM   #9

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I am more focused on the China side of things, but what I have read all suggests that the crossbow was independently invented in greece and china. don't know about other places.

Also, I think it is fairly safe to say, that the crossbow played a much bigger role in chinese warfare than it did in greco-roman which was pedominantly about infantry formations with lots of shields.
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Old April 16th, 2017, 11:07 PM   #10

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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Keen Edge View Post
I am more focused on the China side of things, but what I have read all suggests that the crossbow was independently invented in greece and china. don't know about other places.

Also, I think it is fairly safe to say, that the crossbow played a much bigger role in chinese warfare than it did in greco-roman which was pedominantly about infantry formations with lots of shields.
Romans preferred bigger versions which they used as real artillery. Among them there was also a kind of big sniper crossbow, a ballista they called scorpio.
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