CrossbowsCrossbows are a highly effective weapon for hunting and war even in today’s standards. The first records of crossbows are from China in the 6th century BC. The knowledge then spreads slowly to the west into Europe during the time of the Roman Empire, the greatest empire of all times. The crossbow remained the favored weapon of war and hunting in Rome until the 15th century when gunpowder was also introduced from China.
Crossbows can vary a lot in design and construction. They range from 50 to 400 lbs. in draw weight. They can be very small hand held pistols or rifles, which can fire rapidly and accurately with pinpoint accuracy up to 60 yards and kill ranges up to 100 yards. The larger bows with 400lb. draw weights could have ranges of over 400 yards they could fire large arrows, rocks and other types of projectiles accurately while staying well out of range of most enemy fire. These bows were built of large beams and sat on wheels so that 2 men could change the position of the bow easily. These bows were very powerful but were also very slow in loading and firing. They had mechanical winches, which were hand cranked to draw the bowstring back. It took two men to run these bows called siege machines.
Crossbow men protected themselves with a small shield called the pavise. The shield would be slung on the soldiers back and propped up in front of him just before the battle began.
The favored bow was the small rifle, which had a lot of advantages over the larger ones. This bow could be carried while loaded and ready to fire. This was not possible with a longbow. The crossbow also required less skill and practice to use effectively while the longbow required constant practice and exercise so the soldiers could be strong enough to hold the string back. And even though the longbow was more work and required more skill the crossbow still had a lot more power and accuracy and worked more effectively than the longbow.
At Syracuse, the thought of projecting rocks and metal or wooden bolts over long distances, accurately became an obsession. The first siege weapons were tested on the young Roman navy by the Greeks. The Greeks led the Romans to believe that the gods were hurling rocks at them from the sky. The powerful Romans ran to say the least.