Battle of Mursa Major - Shooting 3 Arrows at once?

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Battle of Mursa Major - Shooting 3 Arrows at once?

Postby ryddragyn » 02 Sep 2015 01:42


First post, hoping to get some feedback on a topic I have been researching as of late. Hope it's okay that it isn't sword related.

There is a passage in Zosimus' Historia Nova that talks about how an archer named Menelaus could nock three arrows at once, and strike three separate enemies.

This is the best description at present in english, the 1814 translation leaves a bit to be desired:

"A very extraordinary, and perhaps in war one of the moft ufeful Archers, is fpoken of by Zofimus, in his account of the battle . between Conftantius and Magentius, at Murfa. This foldier, whofe name was Menelaus, poffeffed the art of fhooting three Arrows from his Bow at one difcharge, and with them could ftrike three different perfons. By this fkilful expedient, fays the hiftorian, he killed a great number of thofe who oppofed him; and the enemy, it might almoft be faid, were defeated by a fingle Archer. Unfortunately, however, this valuable man at laft fell by the hand of Romulus, a general of the army of Magentius, whom he had firft wounded by an Arrow."


Zosimus Nova Historia 1814 Translation:

An essay on archery, Walter Moseley, 1792

I thought this was all really interesting, so I decided to test it out for myself a bit more thoroughly for myself. Lots of modern archers do this as a joke or trick shot, and most everybody thinks it's underpowered and impractical. But I was rather surprised that I could still shoot 2 arrows well over 100 yards even with a sub-military weight bow (55#@28" glass recurve) and a large amount of total projectile weight (~800 grains). With more authentic and much more powerful equipment, I'm sure that a longer range is definitely possible. Lethality is another question, however, but some back of the envelope kinetic energy calculations shows that both arrows could conceivably still be launched with deadly impetus. Or at least with the potential to wound soft areas like the face and eyes. It would take a powerful bow and the right arrows, though.

However, three arrows at once stretches credulity, in my opinion. The nock point position of the third arrow is so high that arrow flight becomes very erratic, due to the limbs acting unevenly on the arrow. Combined with the massive increase in total projectile weight, it's hard to imagine it being particularly effective. Perhaps Menelaus used some kind of overdraw rest (e.g. solenarion, siper, etc) to lighten very narrow arrows enough to get the individual arrow weight down enough.

Or maybe it's all an exaggeration or fantasy that made it into the historical record.

This was all part of a general project on shooting multiple arrows at once, as there are references to this practice from other cultures and time periods (such as in the Aztec Empire around the time of the Spanish Conquest). I summarized everything with a video (best way to tell a story and convey visual concepts, IMHO).


PS- please no comparisons to Lars. That guy's a clown.
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