Top 15 Famous Mythological And Religious Archers
Archery is one of the most attracting ancient warfare art still practiced in modern times as a sport to relive ancient history. The element of archery is as old as the evolution of mankind. Scientists claim that humans developed archery tools in caves for hunting – around 20,000 BC.
Egyptians are considered as the first civilization that adopted archery for warfare (3,000 BC), but Indian history (Asia) claims to practice archery as early as Egyptians did. However, they don’t have considerable proof of their claims.
In the great history of human evolution, there are many religious and mythological archers that have served their leaders in warfare. If you love archery and you don’t know about some of these mythological and religious archers, you’re at the right place.
Take some time, and have a look at these most famous mythological and religious archers that the world has seen.
Ekalavya is a character in the ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata. He was a master archer. He is known for his role in the Kurukshetra war.
The prince Ekalavya belonged to the Nishadha Kingdom. He was a son of Sulekha who offered him as the son to Vyatraj Hiranyadhanus,
Ekalavya aspired to master archery in his early life. He went to join gurukul of the Guru Drona (A royal preceptor in archery). Drona refused to teach Eklavya because guru believed that Ekalavya could not become a good archer. Guru Drona sent him back.
Ekalavya decided not to give up. He made a symbolic statue of guru Drona with the mud and walked upon and worshiped it as his guru. He started to learn archery on his own and kept learning for many years. The name, ”Ekalavya” means self-learned person.
Ekalavya was a legendary archer despite after losing his right thumb when he offered it to his proclaimed guru Drona.
The self-learned Ekalavya worked as an archer for king Jarasandha when he planned to besiege Mathura, which is a city in North Indian State. Ekalavya helped the king chasing Rukmini (Wife of Lord Krishna) when she eloped with Krishna (a major deity in Hinduism).
When Jarasandha and Shishupala were killed, Ekalavya decided to take revenge. He attacked Dwarka where he was killed by Krishna and his army was knocked out by Balarama.
Arjuna was the best archer in the world at his time. He is the main character of the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. He is also known for his key role in the Bhagavad Gita.
He belonged to the Kuru Kingdom and was born to Kunti, the wife of King Pandu.
Arjuna learned archery under the supervision of Guru Drona who later declared him as his favorite and pet student. Arjuna became a legendary archer so that he could shoot the eye of a bird sitting on a tree.
Arjuna was a very dear friend of Lord Krishna and their friendship bond is a most celebrated bond in Hindu mythology. Lord Krishna once said that he can sacrifice anything including his sons, wives, and citizens for Arjuna. He declared that Arjuna is Lord Krishna and Lord Krishna is Arjuna.
After Sri Krishna’s death, Arjuna took his wives and the citizens to Indraprastha, a city of Kuru Kingdom. On their way to Indraprastha, a group of robbers attacked them. Arjuna refused to fight back according to the law of the time.
Except for Yudhishthira, every Pandava (The sons of king Pandu are called Pandavas in Hindu mythology) died. Arjuna also had to leave his mortal body because of his overconfidence in his skills.
Abhimanyu is a character in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata. He played the main role in the Kurukshetra war.
Abhimanyu was a son of the moon-god Chandra. He belonged to the family of Pandavas. His mother Draupadi loved him more than all his brothers. Abhimanyu learned archery from Lord Krishna and was an undefeatable archer of his time.
In the Kurukshetra war, he had to face the best archer and warrior of that time Bhishma on the very first day of the war. They had a long duel with bows and the arrows but eventually, Bhishma got injured by Abhimanyu’s arrows. The legendary Abhimanyu Broke Bhishma’s bow and then they started swordsmanship. Bhishma failed to defeat Abhimanyu.
On the next day, Abhimanyu attacked Ashwatthama where he faced Drona. He and Drona fought long but even Drona failed to defeat him.
On the thirteenth day of the war, the Kaurava commander-in-chief Drona attacked Pandavas with an army that was grouped in giant discus formation. The Pandavas bear great loss because of this formation.
The legendary archery Abhimanyu entered the formation and killed many of mighty warriors of Kauravas.
Abhimanyu was killed by Shrutakarna, son of the Kaurava prince, Dushasan. They were both having a duel when Shrukutakarna hit him on the head from the back.
Apollo is the renowned Olympian deity in Greek and Roman history. Apollo is praised as the main deity in Roman and Greek religion and mythology.
Apollo was born to the Zeus, sky and thunder god in ancient Greek and Leto, the daughter of Titans Coeus and Phoebe. He had a twin sister Artemis.
Apollo is believed to be the god of archery. He and his sister hold the credit for inventing the archery. He has a golden bow but also used a silver bow occasionally. He has a quiver of golden arrows. It is said that Apollo never missed his aim. His arrows shot many to death or caused serious damage.
Apollo fought to eliminate the evil and that’s why some of the epithets call him the “averter of evil”. He is also a protector of young and needy.
Not just a mighty archer but Apollo is also recognized as a god of music, healing, the sun and light, plague, poetry, truth, and prophecy. In Greek mythology, Apollo is considered immortal.
In the ancient Greek religion and mythology, Artemis is a deity of the hunt, forests, hills, the moon, and the archery.
Artemis was born to the Zeus, sky and thunder god in ancient Greek and Leto, the daughter of Titans Coeus and Phoebe. The twin sister of Apollo is known for her beauty and as the co-inverter of archery.
Artemis’ symbols included a bow and arrow, a quiver and a hunting dog, the stag and the moon. She asked her father Zeus (who was a deity of ancient Greek) for some wishes. She made wishes that include:
- She wanted to stay a virgin always.
- She wanted to have many names.
- She wished for bow and arrow made by the Cyclops
- She wanted to be the Phaesporia or Light Bringer
- She wished for a knee-length tunic for hunting.
- She wished to have sixty daughters of Okeanos as her choir.
- She wished to have twenty Amnisides Nymphs to look after her dogs and bow while she rested
- She wanted to rule all the mountains and city
- She wanted to have the ability to help women in the pains of childbirth
The Greek people worshipped Artemis as a goddess in the whole period of ancient Greece from 9th to 12th century BC.
She was the protector of young girls and worked to relieve them of disease. She wanted to have the ability to help women releasing the pain while giving birth to a child. Artemis was worshipped as a goddess of childbirth.
Arash is a heroic archer-figure of Iranian mythology. He is the bold figure of the war between the Iranians and the Turanians over the “Royal Glory”.
The mythological king and Turanian general, “Afrasiab” along with his army encircled the Iranian army and the war came to an end. While the two sides made an agreement.
They decided that an Iranian will shot an arrow and the land covered by the arrow will be returned to the Manuchehr (King of Iran) and the Iranians. And the rest of the land would stay in the custody of the Afrasiab and the Iranians.
Arash shot the arrow with a specially made bow. There is a bit of conflict in different books about the range of land that the arrow covered. Some say it traveled from morning to noon, some say morning to while some books narrate that the arrow covered forty days walking distance.
Some books narrate that after this arrow shot, Iranian started to respect him more and appointed him as the commander of the archers, while others say that he disappeared after the arrow shot.
Ashwathama aka Drauni was a Maharathi(In Hindu epics, A Maharathi is one having all the kinds of weapons and fighting skills). He was a son of Guru Drona. He fought against Pandavas in the ancient Indian epic Kurukshetra war.
Ashwatthama learned archery and other fighting skills from his father Lord Drona. Bhishma (Son of King Shantanu) appointed Lord Drona to teach the students of Pandavas and Kauravas in a city Hastinapur, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Ashwatthama joined the gurukul as a Kaurava student.
In the Kurukshetra war, Ashwathama killed an Akshuhani of Rakshasa, who is a mythological being in Hindu mythology.
In the Kurukshetra war, Ashwatthama fought against Pandavas. He defeated Ghatotkacha(Son of Bhima/ A Pandava) many times. He also killed Anjanaparvan (Son of Ghatotkacha).
In Hindu mythology, Ashwathama is immortal. He was cursed by Lord Krishna to wander in the forests for 3000 years with mental and physical pain.
Bhishma is a character in the ancient Indian epic Mahabharata well known for him not getting married or involving in any sexual activity. He was a matchless archer and warrior of his time.
Bhishma was Kuru King Shantanu’s son but never wanted to be an heir to Shantanu’s kingdom. But, he was affiliated with both the groups of Kurukshetra war the Pandavas and the Kauravas.
The name Bhishma came when he took Bhishma Pratignya, which means to take an oath of Celibacy. His original name was Devavratha.
Bhishma learned archery and other fighting skills under different famous gurus of that time.
Bhishma played a key role in the Kurukshetra war. He served as the supreme commander of the Kauravas army for ten days of the war.
He fought bravely and was undefeated in the war. He used his archery and fighting skills but neither he killed any of the Pandavas nor allowed the Pandavas to kill Kauravas, at the beginning of the war.
Bhishma was killed by Arjuna when he shot him with a number of arrows piercing his entire body.
Drona is a character in the ancient Indian epic the Mahabharata. Drona is also known as some other names including Dronacharya, Guru Drona, Rajaguru Devadrona. Drona was a master in heavenly weapon Astras (Bows and arrows).
Drona practiced archery in the gurukul of Rishi Bharadwaja. Later, he started his own school Hastinapur (A city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) and served as the preceptor of many kings of both Pandavas and Kauravas.
Drona had an invulnerable sword of Lord Brahma(A creator god in Hinduism). The sword was called Asi and it was said that whoever held the sword acquired an absolute victory.
In the Kurukshetra war, he was forced to fight for the Kauravas army because of him being a servant in Hastinapur. He had to fight against his Pandava students.
Drona fought faithfully and killed many Pandavas. He killed Virat (King of Matsya Kingdom) with an arrow and also his dear friend Drupada with a sword.
Drona was killed by a trap, as he was undefeatable just by fighting. Pandavas killed an elephant named, “Ashwatthama” which also was the name Drona’s son and told him that his son was killed. Drona couldn’t process the grief of the news and sat with his arms laid down.
The commander of the Pandavas army Dhrishtadyumna cut off the Drona’s head.
Feng Meng was a figure from ancient Chinese mythology. He was a master archer. Feng Meng was a close friend of Houyi, who was a mythological Chinese archer aka Yi.
Yi took Feng Meng as an Apprentice after his wife Chang’e (A Chinese goddess of the moon) drank the elixir of immortality (A potion that could cure many diseases, it granted the drinker with eternal life). Yi was the preceptor for Feng Meng and taught him all his skills of archery.
Feng Meng envied the skills of his master and always wanted to be a better archer than him. He attempted many times to kill Yi using bow and arrows.
Feng Meng succeeded to kill Yi eventually when he used a stick/club on him. The stick was made of peach tree.
It is said that Feng Meng had started to become a better archer than his master. He could shoot more difficult than his master but still, he decided to kill his master.
Egil who is also known as Agilaz is a character in the mythological poem Völundarkviða and the Old Norse Chivalric Saga Thidrekssaga. He was a mighty warrior and a highly honored archer of his time.
Egil was a son of Finn King. He married Ölrún, a daughter of Roman Emperor.
Egil and his wife fought a battle at the IIZ river (a river running through Bavarian forest Germany) and also they protected a keep from a number of attackers with their amazing archery skills.
The skillful archer, “Egil” was once forced by King Nidung (a cruel king in the Germanic legend) to shoot an apple from the head of his son using a single arrow. Egil drew the second arrow even after the first arrow worked out for him.
The Nidung king asked him about reading two arrows and he said that “if he had killed his son with the first arrow he would have killed the king with the second”. The king did not mind Egil’s openness.
Hayk the Great aka Hayk Nahapet was a legendary Patriarch (highest-rank Bishop). He was the founder of the Armenian nation. Also, the History of Amenia narrates Hayk’s story.
Hayk was a legendary warrior and a master archer. It is said that he was a strong man with a friendly attitude.
Hayk migrated from Babylon to the land of Ararat in the north when the king of Babylon, King Bel tried to force his cruelty upon Hayk’s people. He built a village by the mount Ararat and named it, “Haykashen”.
King bel asked Hayk to come back to Babylon but he rejected. King bel attacked him and in the battle between dynasty of Hayk and Chaldean Dynasty, Hayk killed king bel with an arrow.
After defeating king Bel, Hayk ordered his man to embalm Bel’s corpse and bury it in a high place in the view of wives and sons of the king.
In Greek Mythology, Heracles is considered to be the greatest of Greek heroes.
Heracles was born to the sky and thunder god Zeus and his wife Alcmene. He is also known as the Roman hero and god in Rome and modern west under the name Hercules.
Heracles was driven out of Heaven, He then chose a life of hardship, learning many skills including music and athleticism.
The Twelve Labors of Heracles is a famous story that narrates his efforts to become immortal. The king of Tiryns Eurystheus told him to carry out ten labors in return of which he will be purified of his sins. Heracles carried out the labors but Eurystheus denied his words and told him to do 2 more labors. Heracles easily carried out these newly added labors as well with ease.
He killed many creatures of hell with his skills with the knife and arrows – most common of which are the Nemean Lion, Lernaean Hydra, and Cerberus.
Cupid is considered as a symbol of affection, aspiration, love, and charm in Classical Greek mythology. He was born to Mars, a war god, and Venus a love goddess.
Cupid is sometimes described as a chubby boy in Classical Greek art. People remember him by relating with the verse, “Love conquers all”.
The Roman poet Ovid wrote in Metamorphoses that Cupid carried two kinds of arrows, one with a sharp golden point, and the other with a blunt tip of the lead.
It is narrated that when Cupid used the golden arrow on a person he would fill with uncontrollable desire while when he used the arrow with lead the person desired to flee.
Cupid was a legendary archer and was fearless. He always promoted love, the Cupid riding a dolphin in the ancient arts means that how fastly love moves.
Hou Yi is a mythological Chinese archer. He is also known as Shen Yi and Yi. It is said that Yi was sent from heaven to help humans. In Chinese mythology, Hou Yi is referred to be a god of archery. Hou Yi was married to Chang’e who is a goddess in Chinese mythology.
It is narrated that once 10 Suns rose from Earth and destructed the fields, the world would have been a waste if Hou Yi had not shot down 9 of the 10 Suns. He left one son alive.
Hou Yi could not become immortal even after the gods gifted him the pills of immortality. The pills were swallowed by Chang’e when Yi was gone hunting and Fang Meng (who was Yi’s Apprentice) tried to get the pills.
Yi has is famous for his bravery. It is narrated that when King Taikang started to rule the Xia Dynasty. Yi attacked and occupied the capital of the Xia Dynasty using his archery skills.
Besides these famous mythological and religious archers, there are several other names that are known for their archery skills and were the best at their time.
Indrajit is considered to be the greatest warrior in Hindu mythology.
He belonged to the main island of Sri Lanka called, “Lanka”. Indrajit is also known as Meghanada.
He was a mighty archer of his time.
Karna is a major character in the ancient Indian epic The Mahabharata. He is also called with some other names including Vasusena, Anga-Raja, Sutaputra, and Radheya.
He played a key role in Kurukshetra war and is known for his brilliant archery skills.
Rama aka Ramachandra was a god in Hindu mythology.
He is a supreme being in the Rama-centric traditions of Hinduism.
Rama is a fearless warrior and is a legendary archer in Hinduism.
Skaði was born to Þjazi, who is a giant in Norse mythology.
Skaði is a master in archery and is considered to be a goddess in the Norse mythology.
She is related to bowhunting, skiing, mountains, and winter.
In Greek mythology, Teucer is the founder of Salamis (an ancient Greek city).
He was a great archer of his time and appeared in different wars.
Teucer was born to Telamon, the king of Salamis Island (largest Greek island) and Hesione.