Archery Contests

A contest similar to that from which the name 'Pobjoy' originated is described in Virgil's Aneid: A Turkish 16th century archery competition.

Protinus Aeneas celeri certare sagitta invitat qui forte velint et praemia ponit, ingentique manu malium de nave Seresti erigit, et voluerem traiecto in furne columbam, quo tendant ferrum, malo suspendit ab alto.

(Book V, lines 485 ff.)

This is translated in W. F. Jackson Knight's Penguin version as:

Aeneas forthwith invited any who wished to compete with the swift flight of the arrow. He named the prizes; and then with his hands' great strength he erected a mast borrowed from the ship of Serestus, and to it he attached a fluttering dove by a cord passed through the mast-head, as a target for their arrow-points.

I am grateful to Mr W. E. Pobjoy for sending me these quotes. Bill has described to me witnessing the festival of le tir au papegaut in Charolles, France, as recently as 1954, and seeing a screen depicting popinjay-shooting in the Lady Lever Gallery. He also mentions a description of the contest in T. H. White's Once and Future King.

In the Mahabharata there is an archery contest for the hand of Draupadi. Arjuna succeeds in hitting the target, the left eye of a fish mounted on a high pole, by looking at its reflection in a cauldron of oil placed on the ground.

The picture to the right shows comes from an anthology of 16th century Turkish poems in the British Library. Mounted archers are shooting at a flask or brass ball on top of the pole. It was through this kind of practice that Parthian archers had learnt to deliver their deadly parting shots.


Origins