Today’s weird word is balistarius. Here’s most everyone’s favorite balistarius:
Yep, that’s Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) from “The Walking Dead”. And a balistarius is a crossbowman.
Interesting fact about crossbows: In medieval times, crossbows were under the interdiction of the Church and society. Crossbows don’t require the kind of skill that it takes to fire a longbow (or any kind of regular bow for that matter), and therefore, anyone could use them. The quarrel (the bolt a crossbow fires) could pierce armor. Thus, anyone could kill a knight or noble. In the rigidly defined medieval society, that was a no-no and that’s why they were considered both illegal and immoral. Pope Urban banned them in 1096 and Pope Innocent ratified that decision in 1103.
Crossbows were used until the advent of gunpowder in the 16th century. Their use today is limited — they’re illegal in many states.
(Historical note: King Richard I (Coeur de Léon) died as a result of gangrene after being shot by a crossbow bolt at the siege of the castle at Chalus-Charbrol near Limousin, France, on 26 March 1199. It was kind of his fault — he went riding out in the dark and a balistarius on the castle fired at a moving target, not knowing who it was. He lingered painfully for quite a while before dying. Source: Sharon Kay Penman – Devil’s Brood)
My thanks to: http://www.lordsandladies.org/crossbow.htm and http://militaryhistorynow.com/2012/05/23/the-crossbow-a-medieval-wmd/ for the backup on facts and dates about the crossbow.