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A crossbow refers to a weapon made up of a bow, which is mounted on a stock that shoots quarrels, mostly known as projectiles. Dating back to the 4th century B.C., crossbows have been used significantly in East Asia, the Mediterranean and Europe. The earliest crossbow had a slot in the stock, to which the string was attached (Eric, 1969). A vertical rod, thrust up through a hole in the notch’s bottom, forced the string out. The rod was attached perpendicular to a trigger; a firing lever that faced backwards (Eric, 1969). It is assumed to have originated from the ancient Chinese. However, many other civilizations of the medieval times, including the ancient Romans, used it mostly in battle.
The first design used to draw upon the rack-and pinion cranking feature. The feature allowed an operator to use basic physics principles and operate levers to put the bow strings into place. The Romans worked on the earliest designs to come up with other forms that used belts, levers, hinges and cord-and-pulley systems (Eric, 1969). Basic hand-held crossbows consisted of the operator holding the crossbow vertically, while facing downwards, and then brace the main body of the crossbow along the leg for support. The bowstring was then drawn up until it rested on the locking nut. The operator had to only load the bolt, aim the weapon and release the nut, which would activate the firing motion.
The ancient Romans used the crossbow as either a defensive or an offensive weapon in battle (Eric, 1969). Rows of crossbowman was utilized by ordering the frontline to fire, pass the spent one to the back row while they were handed a loaded one to fire another shot. This made sure that there was a sustained firing rate. There were times when other crossbowman units had large kite shields on their backs, which allowed the operators to fire, turn around for shelter from the shield while they reloaded, and then turn around to fire afresh. A crossbowman was also combined with a mounted soldier (Duncan, 2003). It provided the force of the normal crossbow with the power, as well as mobility of a mounted battlefield constituent. Ammunition was either armor piercing bolt or arrows of different designs. This spelt danger to all kinds of enemy in the sights of the crossbowman.
In a Roman soldiers’ line up, both mounted and unmounted crossbowmen occupied the central position together with archers and javeliners. They were responsible for engaging the enemy before knights could lead an assault. They were useful in laying a counterattack too (Duncan, 2003). The use of crossbows on horseback was made possible by the invention of the pushlever and ratchet drawing machine.
In conclusion, the ancient Romans used the crossbow for various reasons. It used a drawn bowstring held in place through a locking mechanism. A trigger was installed to release the tension when one wanted to shoot. Notably, the built-up tension sent the bolt towards the target; it was so lethal that it could penetrate flesh, leather, armor and bone. The crossbow came in a variety of forms (Duncan, 2003). It superseded the bow-and-arrow and proved to be an accurate bow weapon. The high level of kinetic energy it produced at release was efficient to produce effective piercing properties. It was also an easy tool to use as one could be trained to use in a week or so. However, the disadvantage with the crossbow was that it was not easy to reload it quickly; it took a lot of time to load and fire one bolt when compare to a longbow. This was so because of the amount of energy needed to put the bowstring back to the lock.