CrossbowFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
This article is about the weapon. For other uses, see Crossbow (disambiguation).
Sketch by Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1500
A crossbow is a type of bow consisting of a horizontal limb assembly mounted on a stock that shoots projectiles, called bolts orquarrels. The medieval crossbow was called by many names, most of which derived from the word ballista, a torsion engine resembling a crossbow in appearance.
Historically, crossbows played a significant role in the warfare of East Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean. The invention of the crossbow caused a major shift in the role of ranged weaponry among armies, as the traditional bow and arrow had long been a specialized weapons system which required a considerable degree of lifetime training, physical strength and expertise to operate with any degree of efficiency; in many cultures, despite being usually drawn from the common class, bowmen were considered a separate and superior caste, as theirarchery skill-set (similar to many horseman cultures) was essentially developed from birth and impossible to reproduce outside a pre-established cultural tradition, which many nations lacked. In contrast, the crossbow was the first projectile weapon to be simple, cheap and physically-undemanding enough to be operated by large numbers of conscript soldiers, thus enabling virtually any nation with sufficient coin to field a potent force of ranged crossbowmen with little expense beyond the cost of the weapons themselves. This led to the ascendancy of large mercenary armies of crossbowmen (best exemplified by the Genoese crossbowmen), and the eventual death of the heavily armored aristocratic knight as armies became progressively dominated by conscripts equipped with increasingly-powerful ranged projectile weapons.
In modern times, although largely supplanted by firearms in most roles, crossbows are still widely used for shooting sports, hunting, and when shooting in relative silence is an important consideration.