Turkish Archery Overview

Turkish Archery

The history of the arrow and bow of the Turks stretches back to very distand times. In the legend of Oguz Khagan we see it taking its place either as a means of war or as a symbolic element.

In Central Asia the arrow and bow, together with the sword, whether in hunting or wars was a most important weapon. The sword was used as the close range weapon and the arrow and bow as the long range weapon.

With the acceptance by the Turks of Islam, as well as the importance given to arrow and bow there were added a special religious significance. From the written sources coming down to us today from the first century of Islam (we find that) the arrow and bow even more that other weapons is given a special place. In this subject we have also learned of Hazrat Mohammad many perceptive efforts.

We see more than 40 Hadiths (study of the prophet) attribute to Hazrat Mohammad and directly and persistently indicating his efforts. We want to give a few examples from the Hadiths concerning the important of archery:

"The one who makes the arrow, the one who presents the arrow, and the one who shoots the arrow are destined for paradise"
"Teach your children to read the Koran and arrow shooting (archery)"
 "The spaces between where an arrow is shot and where it falls are gardens of paradise for you"

From medieval times through the nineteenth century, archers of the Islamic crescent, which stretches from Turkey eastwart to India, were renowed for both their exceptional skills and their superior weapons. And archery developed and reaching its zenith in the Ottoman Empire.

The First Sport Club

Contests played an important role in the Turkish sports history. Wrestling contest, caicque races, horse races, cirit (a game with horses and javelins) and c÷gen games (a game similar to polo), sword-shield combats drew the attraction of public for centuries.

The most spectacular contests were undoubtly marksmanship and archery contests. Archery has been performed as a regular and planned branch of sports in Ottoman Empire since from the second half of the 15th century. Thus, there were 34 big arenas specifically assigned to archery activities in the Ottoman period. These places that were provided in several cities were called 'ok meydani' ("oq-meidany" arrow-place). Those were the places where the contests and trainings were held while they served as grand facilities where the sportsman live and had their own allocations, managers and staff. There were standing sportive activities under a scheduled order in those arenas.

Turkish miniature details about horse race,
archery demonstration and wrestling.

The most notable of these arrow places was of course Istanbul Ok-meydani (Fig. 1). It was officially donated to archery activities by Mehmed II. (Conqueror) just after the conquest of Istanbul in A.D. 1453. The borders and purpose of use of the field were set clearly by the Sultan's firman in order to prevent violations such as burial of the dead, entrance of ungulates, construction of houses, agricultural activities.

The facility was opened at Hidirellez and closed at November (Ruz-i Kasim). Shootings and contests used to be held on Mondays and Thursdays, so there were 48 days for official contests and practice and the sportsman could do free practice (mesk) rest of the time.

Founder of the Ok-Meidan and Turkish Sport Archery, Mehmed the Conqueror (1432-1481) with his thumbring.

The watercolour painting of Ok-Meidan by the Swedish Ambassador Carl Gustaf L÷wenhielm (1790-1858) in 1820s.
(courtesy: Acar S)

Papers from "Law of archers" (1682)
(courtesy: Kunter HB)
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