If we consider the archery is a Modern Olympic sport today, we can say that South Korea is the best one about using a bow and arrow. But today we’ll investigate the great archers of a country which is conquered the known World thousands of years ago and became a super-power. I’m talking about Ancient Greek Archers.
Ancient Greek Archers
Considering most of the Greeks are spending their lives in endless wars and hunting to feed their family, it's not a surprise Greek archers are one of the most famous and great ones in history.
Despite this, Early periods of Classical Greece, the prejudice was intense against the archers. Archers had quite a negative reputation in ancient Greece.
The first reason of this is to arrowsheads not being able to penetrate the Greek armour. But the second one is even more important for the Greek people. Bow and arrow were seen as not being heroic enough, especially in regards to Homer's Illiad. Homeric battles were executed using mainly spears.
This reputation has changed after Alexander came along and Greek archers gained greater importance in the army. This reflects even to on Greek mythological characters.
The Greek god Apollo is the god of archery, Artemis was the goddess of the hunt, Great warriors Heracles and Odysseus, and many other mythological characters are usually pictured with a bow and arrows. So, archery takes a place an important role in Greek tradition and history.
Especially the people of Crete were very talented in archery and Cretan mercenary archers were in great demand for the armies. They were carrying composite bows, which gave a greater range than the simple wooden bows.
So, this huge island was known for its tradition of archery. It can be said that a place as an archer factory for the great Greek armies.
Bow and Arrow in Ancient Greece
The bow and arrow are one of the earliest known weapons of war and because of its range, it was also the most convenient weapon of the hunter. The first usage of the simple wooden bows and arrow shafts in Europe are based on up to 12 thousand years ago.
In Ancient Greece, the bow was likely to be acknowledged as a local weapon at that time. Even though, archers comprised, then, roughly 10 percent of an ancient Greek city’s military force.
Greek archers were vulnerable in the war. For instance, unlike the Assyrian archers had a shield-holding teammate, the Greek archer seems to have been completely unarmored, defense utterly by the range of his weapon. Yet, they have a huge role in building one of the greatest ancient empires.
A typical Greek arrow is made up of three parts. The arrowhead had to be of the hardest possible material like flint, bone or metal. The shaft of the arrow was made of wood or reed. The tail of the arrow which is designed to keep the arrow on its course and straight flight was made by feather.
8 Most Famous Archers in Ancient Greek
Heroes of Greek mythology were warriors who always use melee weapons. A hero with a bow is an unusual thing.
But Paris was a famous archer in Greek Mythology. He was a Prince of Troy and known for eloping with the Queen of Sparta named Helen.
Paris, who killed one of the greatest warrior Achilles in the world of the era with an arrow, became himself most famous greek archers of the history.
It is interesting, Homer's Iliad casts Paris as unskilled and coward warrior. In fact, his preference for bow and arrow emphasizes this, since he does not follow the code of honor shared by the other heroes of the era.
Eros was a god of love and attraction in Greek mythology. He is portrayed by many artists with his bow and arrows. So, that makes him one of the most famous archers in the world.
Eros uses special arrows that cause uncontrollable desire in whomever they hit.
It was a common belief that he randomly shot a love arrow to the people and made people fall in love.
She was the god of virginity, wilderness and hunting and also one of the most famous female archers in history. Stories tell us that Artemis and Apollo teamed up and they fought against the Trojans with their bow and arrow.
Her symbols included the bow and arrow. She was often depicted in paintings and statues in the woods, carrying a bow and arrows.
The arrows of Artemis were also bring sudden death and disease to girls and women.
Artemis was a very good marksman, always hits the bullseye. The goddess caused the death of the man she loved unknowingly.
This death overwhelms Artemis and begins to break with life day by day. It is said that the moon is such a cold, gloomy and lifeless place because the pain inside the moon goddess Artemis was never ceased.
Apollo was the son of Zeus. He was born in Greece and he is one of the most famous ancient Greek god, Altough, Apollo has been recognized as a god of music, dance, truth, healing, diseases, the Sun, but also he is god of archery in Greek world and so well known for his archery skills… In other words, he is the god of archery.
His twin sister Artemis is an ancient god of archery also. She’s carrying a silver bow while Apollo carries a gold one.
Hephaestus gave the bow and arrows to Apollo when he was a child to protect his mother, Leto, from Python. After receiving them, Apollo cornered Python in the sacred cave at Delphi and killed the monster.
The bow can cause health or famine, although its main function is that of a regular bow, but with much greater power. It is described as the opposite of Artemis' Silver Bow. But it is equal in power to Artemis' Bow.
Even the invention of archery is credited to Apollo and his twin sister Artemis. Then he taught to the humans the art of archery.
According to the legend, he even used plague-infected arrows to destroy the enemy army in the Trojan War.
In Greek Mythology, Atalanta is famous for her swift and serial movements that makes her a great hunter and uncommon athlete. She was a favorite one of the archery goddess Artemis because of her survival skills, bravery, and dignified character.
For the first time, Atalanta was seen in Greek history at the Calydonian boar hunting which was one of the most frightening monsters of Greek mythology.
When many of the courage Greek warriors came together to beat the beast, Atalanta was there too with her never-failing bow and arrow. She was the first one who wound the boar.
Atalanta appears in the 2014 movie Hercules, as a mercenary archer who travels with Hercules' band.
Philoctetes, was known as a legendary Greek Archer who played a great role at the end of the Trojan War.
His father Poeas, had been bequeathed the bow and arrows of the Greek hero Heracles in return for lighting his funeral fire. Then he became a well-known archer with his extraordinary archery skills.
Prince Helenus of Troy was a prophetic man. He was forced to reveal, under torture, the prophecy of the only condition of Greeks’ winning. They were needed the bow and arrows of Hercules…
Poeas is a father of legendary archer Philoctetes. He was named as the greatest archer amongst the Crete after the Hercules.
At Crete, Poeas has stopped the bronze giant which considered as invulnerable Talos. He killed Talos by shooting an arrow into his heel.
The demigod Heracles, or Hercules as the Romans called him was the son of a mortal woman named Alcmene and the supreme god Zeus. Altough he is a very popular character in Greek mythology, he has been more popularly known ever since the Roman times.
Zeus' lawful wife Hera hated the child born out of wedlock, and sent two snakes to kill the baby. However, the young boy kills the animals and become a strong warrior,
Although he was a strong warrior, he was also good at archery. As an archer, he was invincible.
His characteristic weapon was the bow. The Bow of Hercules was a strong mythological weapon. According to the captured King Priam's son prophecy, the bow became vital to the Greek army at Troy. In order to Greek’s victory over the Trojans, the bow and arrows of Hercules needed to be brought to the battle.
The Archaeological evidences attested as the bow was largely utilized in the Aegean area since the 10.000 BC. After Alexander came along, Greek archers gained greater importance in the army. So that, we can see the effect of archery in every part of Ancient Greek History.