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 p126  Arcus

Unsigned article on p126 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

ARCUS (βιός, τόξον), the bow used for shooting arrows, is one of the most ancient of all weapons, but is characteristic of Asia rather than of Europe. Thus in the description given by Herodotus (VII.61‑80) of the various nations composing the army of Xerxes, we observe that nearly all the troops without exception used the bow. The Scythians and Parthians were the most celebrated archers in the East, and among the Greeks the Cretans, who frequently served as a separate corps in the Greek armies, and subsequently also among the auxiliary troops of the Romans (comp. Xen. Anab. I.2 §9; Liv. XLII.35).

[image ALT: A woodcut of two unstrung bows.]

The form of the Scythian and Parthian bow differed from that of the Greeks. The former was in the shape of a half-moon, and is shown in the upper of the two figures here exhibited, which is taken from one of Sir W. Hamilton's fictile vases (comp. Amm. Marc. XXII.8). The Greek bow, on the other hand, the usual form of which is shown in the lower of the preceding figures, has a double curvature, consisting of two circular portions united in the middle (πῆχυς). According to the description in Homer (Il. IV.105‑126), the bow was made of two pieces of horn, hence frequently called κέρας and cornu. The bow-string (νευρά) was twisted, and was frequently made of thongs of leather (νεῦρα βόεια). It was always fastened to one end of the bow, and at the other end there hung a ring or hook (κορώνη), usually made of metal (χρυσέη), to which the string was attached, when the bow was to be used. In the same passage of Homer we have a description of a man preparing to shoot, and this account is illustrated by the following outline of a statue belonging to the group of the Aeginetan marbles. The bow, placed in the hands of this statue, was probably of bronze, and has been lost.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a statue of a man kneeling on his right knee and squatting back on his right foot. He is shooting an arrow, but the bow and arrow are missing. It reproduces a Greek marble statue from Aegina.]

When not used, the bow was put into a case (τοξοθήκη, γωρυτός, Corytus), which was made of leather, and sometimes ornamented (φαεινός, Hom. Od. XXI.54). The bow-case is very conspicuous in the sculptured bas-reliefs of Persepolis. It frequently held the arrows as well as the bow, and on this account is often confounded with the Pharetra or quiver. Though its use was comparatively rare among the Greeks and Romans, we find it exhibited in a bas-relief in the Museo Pio-Clementino (vol. IV tav. 43), which is copied in the annexed cut.

[image ALT: A woodcut of a sort of deep narrow satchel with a strap, open at the top, in which are seen the end of a bow and three feathered arrows. It is an ancient Greek quiver.]

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Page updated: 21 Apr 18