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Image credit: Periclesof Athens If you’re curious about records of the crossbow being used in warfare, the earliest reliable records of that nature refer to an ambush, the Battle of Ma-Ling, in 341 BC.
Within 150 years of that battle, by the 200s BC, the crossbow was very well developed and widely used for warfare and hunting in China.
A miniature guard wielding a handheld crossbow from the top balcony of a model watchtower, made of glazed earthenware during the Eastern Han era (25–220 AD) of China, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
As you’ll learn later on in this history, the crossbow caused quite a shift in the role of projectile weaponry, because the traditional archer required a considerable degree of lifetime training, physical strength, and expertise in order to operate a bow with any degree of accuracy and efficiency.
In quite a few cultures, archers were drawn from the common class, but were considered a separate and superior caste because their archery skillset was developed from birth and was impossible to recreate in any other way.
I’ve always been a bit of a history geek, so I already knew some of this.
However, to make this as comprehensive as I could, I spent several weeks in deep research looking for everything I could find on the history of this powerful weapon. This is a weapon based on the bow, featuring a horizontal bow-like assembly called a prod, which is then mounted on a stock.
This is where the controvery sparks up, because some historians attribute the design of the repeating crossbow to a famous military advisor named Zhuge Liang (181–234 AD).