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[Archers in an Anglo-Saxon manuscript:
Ishmael as a skillful hunter, in Ælfric’s Hexateuch
Esau Sent Hunting, in Ælfric’s Hexateuch
and an Anglo-Saxon Archer on the 'Bayeux Tapestry']


An extract from Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066
by Ian Heath


Although the bow is often mentioned in their poetry as a weapon of war it never seems to have been widely adopted by the Saxons or, if it was, it would seem to have been singularly ineffective. One version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle even insists that the bow was 'held of little account against an armed man', while Henry of Huntingdon records William the Conqueror describing the Saxons as a people who 'knew not the use of the bow.'

However Roger Ascham, the 16th century toxopholite, records a story told to him by Sir Thomas Elyot that when the Saxons had first entered England as mercenaries of Vortigern they had been bow-armed, and the weapon was apparently new to Britain. Elyot is said to have found this story in an ancient chronicle.

The bow averaged between 4 and 5 feet in length and many were of yew. The quiver was usually suspended at the right hip from a strap across the left shoulder but could sometimes be found slung at the back.

Next: 116 & 117. SAXON SELECT FYRDMEN in Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 by Ian Heath