History of archery




The bow was used for the first time by primitive man as a hunting weapon and as a means of defence.


Based on the etymology  of the Greek words toxo (bow), toxotis (archer) and others, we are  led to the Sanskrit word  taksaka, which is the name of a tree, the branches of which were used for the making of bows. The bow and arrow are found in drawings for the first time in the Spanish cave  of Valltorte. As time passes, Homo Sapiens  creates a whole line of by-products based on the blade. He created the points of the arrows  by attaching blades onto a wooden shaft. Inventions such as this enabled him to hunt more efficiently, catching very small and nimble animals as well.


The first to use the bow as a weapon at war were the Egyptians around 3500 B.C. The length of the bows were determined by the warriors height  and their arrows held blades that were made of slate and copper. The Cycladites, who used bows as a basic weapon, used bronze points on their arrows. The Assyrians , around 1800 B.C., used a new type of bow which was shorter and was made of animal skin, wood and horns. It was shaped like two semi-circles placed next to each other. The structure of this new bow made them superior to their opponents as this bow could also be used by the cavalry.  The Hittites also used this short bow while they were on light, fast chariots around 1200 B.C.


In the Ancient Greek mythology as well as other cultures we find the use of poison on the points/blades of the arrows quite often. An example is the story of the death of Hercules. On his way to Trahina, when he got to the river Xiino at the south of Etolia, he asked the centaur Nessos to carry Deianira  (his wife) to the other side of the river,  offering to pay him for it. At the end of the passage Deianira screamed loudly and managed to notify Hercules that Nessos had attacked her. Hercules aimed at his heart straight away and killed him using his poison tipped arrows. As the centaur was dying, he advised Deianira to mix his sperm, which was on the ground with the blood running from his wound to use it as a potion to bring Hercules close to her, if he should ever desert her. Unfortunately though the blood of Nessos had already been mixed with the poison. Hercules did eventually leave Deianira and in her despair she sent him the potion, only to kill him.


Archery as a sport, shooting at a target, is first found in the Iliad in the descriptions  of the games with which  Achilles honoured his dead friend Patroclus. The target was a pigeon tied on the mast of a ship. Some very well known archers  of the time took place such as Tefkros and Mirionis . The order in which the archers shot at the pigeon was  determined by drawing lots. As first prize to the archer that hit at the pigeon Achilles would give 10 double axes made of iron. For the archer that hit the  rope, 10 single axes made of iron. First Tefkros  aimed at the pigeon and hit the rope so that the pigeon was free to fly. Then Mirionis quickly aimed and hit the pigeon in the air.


Archery was not the primary means of defence in Ancient Greece. The archers  had a secondary  role, even though they were very effective at times. They consisted of professional mercenary soldiers,  mostly Cretans and Skythians. From the 4th century B.C. and onwards, though, archery  is added into the curriculum of the boys education.


Archery became an Olympic sport in 1900. In 1920, though , it is taken out of the Olympic Games to be inserted again  in 1972. In Greece this sport made its first appearance in 1983 and was part of the shooting federation of Greece. But in the year 1999, an independent Archery federation was  founded (E.F.O.T.). The international Archery federation is called F.I.T.A (Federation International de Tir  al' Arc).


PAO was the first club in Greece to include archery  as one of the sports it offered.  The first  club that was founded to compete in archery alone was A.S.T.A. Today there are clubs  in Athens, Thessalonica and many other towns.