fire arrows

Commander

Historum Emeritas
Jun 2006
1,362
Jacksonville, FL
#1
Was is a common tactic in the middle ages to use fire arrows in battle? We see in Braveheart ( i know... ) that oil or tar is placed on the battle field prior to the fight, and then the Scottish shoot fire arrows into the tar and create a massive fire around the armies.

Was this accurate in battles?
 
Jun 2006
368
Earthquake Central
#3
I know it was used against ships by the greeks. But I think that was land based attacks against naval forces. I dont' know any ships captain in their right minds that would allow a bunch of people to light fires on their own boats.
 

CelticBard

Historum Emeritas
Aug 2006
758
Roving
#4
I saw a myth busters about that. They proved it to be just a myth, but you're right about the fire on boats. If I were in charge of an armada I wouldn't want every ship having fires lit for archers on it. Greek fire made sense because it ignited with water and was propelled away from the ship, but fire on board like that for masses of archers to use sounds like a disaster.
 
Jul 2006
613
Virginia
#5
I think I remember reading that archers in medieval times would use flaming arrows during sieges on the chance they would set a roof or something on fire.
 
Aug 2006
275
#7
What about pitch or pits of pitch? I think the defenders would bury/spread it on the battlefield and when the enemy came across they would light it on fire with arrows.
 

Nick

Historum Emeritas
Jul 2006
6,111
UK
#8
Breth said:
What about pitch or pits of pitch? I think the defenders would bury/spread it on the battlefield and when the enemy came across they would light it on fire with arrows.
Or pour it off the battlements onto the attackers.
 
Jul 2006
195
Edinburgh, Scotland
#9
Fire arrows were not used directly with open warfare as Hollywood would like us to believe, unless they were trying to set fire to a village or town. Also a post was correct earlier some armies set fire to pitch to create a smoky haze. Night arrows on the other hand....those were the most deadly ,especially at night, and the most commonly used.
 
Sep 2006
56
Berlin, Ontario
#10
Fire arrows would very rarely be efficient enough to use practically in ancient combat. We did not have lighters, and hence creating fire could take much too long and be very difficult, if not impossible depending on the condition, to be of much use. Something as intimidating as a flaming arrow would ideally be offensive, but I disagree that it could be used practically in such a manner. The only evidence of a "flaming arrow" ever used in ancient history was an arrowhead relic which consisted of three fore-prongs among which a cloth would have been tied, and directly before release, submerged into a tar-like solution and ignited. The only way such a weapon could be of advantage is within a purely defensive strategy, in which a pool or bucket of tar would be kept distanced from a small flame. However, with so much trouble involved, the flaming arrow would, anyway, be such an inefficient means of weaponry, especially considering the rate at which arrows could normally be cast in rapid succession otherwise; from personal experience I recognize that a flaming arrow usually extinguishes itself for the wind or even the time it is in flight before striking either way.

The stuff of movies...
 

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