When we think about archery, many of us have images of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. But, archery has always been a huge importance throughout history, in terms of hunting and battles. In fact, archery was huge in the ancient world, long before it played any part in the present. These days, the only time you really see archery is at the Olympics, or when people are taking an archery lesson.
There is a lot of history here, and the practice of archery is one of the oldest in the art forms in the world. It is also one of the oldest that is still practiced. From its origins in Ancient Egypt and the Stone Age to its prominence in Asia, archery has played a big role in helping to shape the evolution of mankind.
Development in Asia
Archery might have first been used by the Egyptians, but it was certainly developed further in Asia. The Chinese brought archery to Japan in the 6th Century, and it had a profound impact on the culture of both nations. These days, archery is practiced as a way of developing mind and body and improving one’s spiritual standing. There was also a Japanese martial art developed around archery known as ‘kyudo’ – roughly translated as “way of the bow.” There was also a big archery culture in the Middle East, and the Mongols, led by Attila the Hun, conquered much of the known world with bows and arrows.
Dating the mythology of archery back in time is a fun and fascinating experience. Now, the legends we know about archery mainly pertain to folklore like Robin Hood, however, archers also play a big role in Greek mythology too. Odysseus, the famed Greek archer, was away for some time, before returning to win back his wife’s hand with a stunning display of archery skill.
The longbow is prevalent throughout British history too, with the Battle of Agincourt, and the battles of Crecy and Poitiers. Additionally, many fantasy fiction novels have a great basis on archery. For instance, it plays a big role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (more commonly known as Game of Thrones, the title of the series’ first book). In fictional settings archery is almost always seen as been incredibly highly skilled, as well as a vital form of combat.
As the modern world has developed, we have had little need for archery, and this has caused it to die out in certain cultures. However, it is still enjoyed as a hobby of skill and used as a way of improving accuracy as well as hand-eye coordination. There are many summer camps that offer archery as one of their trained activities, run by professional instructors of course! We also know that competitive archery is practiced across the world, with the Olympics playing a pivotal part in this competition.
There is evidence of how important archery was back in the day in old castles, keeps and holdfasts that are still standing from ancient times. Most of these buildings are found in Europe, but it is obvious that these immense structures were built with archers in mind. There are narrow slits in defence walls, where an archer could aim their arrow from, but it was almost impossible for incoming arrow to pass through. There are areas built in most castles specially for their archers (more so than any other type of soldier) as the archers were usually the first form of defence against an attack, due to the range they could reach – especially from up high – with little risk to themselves.