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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.


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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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]

Last edited by Guaporense; May 16th, 2012 at 05:51 PM.
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