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An extract from Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1
by Ian Heath


The 14th century authors Ibn al-Labbana and Ibn Hudayl (who wrote for Mohammed VI in the 1390s) both record Granadine horsemen armed with crossbows, and even at the beginning of this period Ibn al-Khatib claims that the 'Frankish bow', as it was called, was in more widespread use than the Arab bow amongst Granadines. By the 15th century the Granadines were recognised as marksmen with the crossbow; Pulgar, who wrote at the end of the century, is one of the many Christian sources that praises the accuracy of their crossbowmen, adding that they were trained to its use from early childhood. Apparently they often poisoned their crossbow bolts, wrapping a piece of cloth soaked in a solution obtained from wolfsbane (which grew abundantly in the Sierra Nevada near Granada) round the point of the arrow.

This particular figure comes from a fresco in a small house on the El Partal of the Alhambra, painted in distemper on whitewash probably c. 1350. Particular points to note are his helmet and the quiver forward of the saddle. It seems probable that such mounted crossbowmen normally dismounted to fight. The fresco also shows lancers similarly wearing helmets.
[Based on Granadine mounted crossbowmen on a wall painting of El Partal, Alhambra, Spain]

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