از هر کرانه تیر دعا کرده‌ام روان
باشد کز آن میانه یکی کارگر شود

From every corner I have sent off arrows of prayers
hoping just one would hit it's target. -Hafiz (Persian Poet)

The bow and arrow is a ranged weapon system consisting of an elastic launching device (bow) and long-shafted projectiles (arrows). Archery is the art, practice, or skill of using bows to shoot arrows. A person who shoots arrows with a bow is called a bowman or an archer. Someone who makes bows is known as a bowyer, one who makes arrows is a fletcher, and one who manufactures metal arrowheads is an arrowsmith.

Humans used bows and arrows for hunting and violence long before recorded history, and the practice was common to many prehistoric cultures. The oldest known evidence of arrows comes from the South African site of Sibudu Cave, where the remains of bone and stone arrowheads have been found dating to approximately 70,000–60,000 years ago. They were important weapons of war from ancient history in all cultures until the early modern period, where they were rendered increasingly obsolete by the development of the more powerful and accurate firearms & projectiles, and were eventually dropped from warfare. Today, bows and arrows are mostly used for hunting and sports.

In the history of warfare, warriors of various cultures were renowned for their skill in using the bow and arrow. Of particular note were the archers and soldiers of the Achaemenid Empire as the archers were held high in regard, with the bow being the national arm of the ancient Achaemenid Empire.

The Achaemenids were said to have been trained in archery from a very young age. Regarding the education of Persian boys, the Greek historian, Herodotus, has this to say: “Their sons are educated from the time they are five years old until they are twenty, but they study only three things: horsemanship, archery, and honesty.”

An anecdote provided by Herodotus about the "Battle of Thermopylae" serves to illustrate this point: “Before battle was joined, they say that someone from Trachis warned him [Dianeces] how many Persians there were by saying that when they fired their bows, they hid the sun with the mass of arrows. Dianeces, so the story goes, was so dismissive of the Persian numbers that he calmly replied, ‘All to the good, my friend from Trachis. If the Persians hide the sun, the battle will be in shade rather than sunlight.’”

Before invading, Xerxes implored the Spartan king Leonidas to surrender his arms. Leonidas famously replied, “Come and take them”. Xerxes intended to do just that and thus moved toward Thermopylae. For two days the Greeks defended against Persian attacks and suffered light losses as they imposed heavy casualties on the Persian army. Only when the Greeks were betrayed did the battle take a detrimental turn for them. Ephialtes, a Greek citizen desiring reward, informed Xerxes of a path that went around Thermopylae, thus rendering the Greeks’ line useless in preventing forward advancement of the Persian army.

Xerxes took advantage of this betrayal and sent part of his army along this path, led by Ephialtes himself. After reaching the other side, the Persians attacked and destroyed a portion of the Greek army. This forced Leonidas to call a war council, at which it was decided that retreating was the best option.

However, as the majority of the Greek army retreated, Leonidas, his 300 bodyguards, some helots (people enslaved by the Spartans), and 1,100 Boeotians remained behind, supposedly because retreating would defy Spartan law and custom. They held their ground against the Persians but were quickly defeated by the vast enemy army, and many if not all were killed, including Leonidas. Today the Battle of Thermopylae is celebrated as an example of heroic persistence against seemingly impossible odds.

Despite the effectiveness of Persian archers, the "Battle of Plataea" was won by the Greeks. Additionally, history has shown that in the end, the Achaemenids were unable to add the Greek mainland into their empire. Thus, the Greek playwright, Aeschylus, has written in The Persians:

"Wo, wo is me! Then has the iron storm,
That darken'd from the realms of Asia, pour'd
In vain its arrowy shower on sacred Greece."

Arash the Archer (Persian: آرش کمانگیر‎ Āraš-e Kamāngīr) is a heroic archer-figure of Iranian mythology and an Iranian national hero who sacrificed his life for Iran.

In the Avesta the name appears as 'Erekhsha' (Ǝrəxša) "of the swift arrow, having the swiftest arrow among the Iranians" (Yasht 8.6). Persian legend has it that at the end of a long-lasting war between Iran and Turan (China), the General Afrasiab had surrounded the forces of the righteous Manuchehr and thus the rulers of both countries decided to make peace and to fix the boundary between their kingdoms. It was determined that somebody should ascend Mount Damavand and from there shoot an arrow towards the east and wherever the arrow lands, that would be the new border between the two countries.

Arash was the best archer in the Persian army who volunteered to shoot the arrow. On the bright morning of Tirgan, the first month of summer, Arash stripped naked, displayed himself naked and said: “Behold! my body is free of any wound or sickness; but after this bow shot I will be destroyed.” At dawn he faced north, strained his bow as never before, let the arrow fly and rid with the arrow. Once he shot he was immediately torn to pieces and is since known and celebrated as the national hero par excellence.

According to Persian tales, the arrow flew the entire morning and fell at noon, on the 2,250 kilometer bank of the Oxus River in what is now Central Asia. The river remained the boundary between Iran and Turan (China) for centuries until the Mongol hordes poured in to push the Persians southward in the 10th century AD.

The meaning of bows and arrows can differ vastly amongst cultures, A bow and arrow can symbolize strength and power, or a sense of direction: You’re moving forward without looking back, ranging from masculine power and warfare to love, movement and direction. A broken arrow traditionally symbolizes peace, and crossed arrows symbolize friendship. Some arrows features beautiful ornate feathers. They are modeled like birds flying through the air and represent heading in the directions of your target and learning to fly during the process in order to acquire great hieghts while reaching your desired goals.

In the Holy Quran it says, “You did not shoot (anything) when you shot (arrows or spears), but God threw (them).” (8:17) Thus Allah causes the arrow to reach its mark, and archers were not allowed to think that they shot the arrows. The Muslim archers used to shout "Ya Haqq!” (the true!) as they released their missiles.

There are more than a thousand hadiths (narrations of the Prophet Muhammad) having to do with archery, the most famous one being: “Teach your children swimming, archery and horseback riding.”

The Islamic historians write that the Islamic Last Prophet (SAW) had six bows which named as Az-Zawra, ar-Rauha, as-Safra, al-Bayda, al-Katum. These were used in Battles. The name of his (SAW) quiver was Al-Kafur.

There is a hadith that the holy prophet said: "Everything with which a man amuses himself is vain except three (things): a man's training of his horse, his playing with his wife, and his shooting with his bow."

In the Sufi mystical tradition there is a story that goes as follows: Once upon a time, there was an archery competition in a kingdom. A Sufi master and his disciples attended the event too. His disciples wrote his name in the list of the competitors without the master’s knowledge.

When the organizer announced that it was the Sufi master’s turn to shoot with a bow, the crowd went silent. The Sufi master was respected and nobody expected he would compete. The master himself was surprised to hear his name but quickly realized his disciples were responsible for that.

He took the bow silently and very quickly, without even glancing at the target, he shot. The arrow went high in the air without even nearing the target. The crowd started murmuring, “How did the great master miss the target?”

He said nothing, but only took another arrow and this time aiming quickly at the target made his shot. The arrow scored the bottom of the target. The people again started talking.

For the third time the Sufi master took an arrow, aimed at the target carefully and shot. This time the arrow hit the center.

The crowd again started speaking so excitedly that the organizer had to intervene and restore the order. He spoke to the master, “Great Sufi master, you scored three times and out of the three shots only the last one hit the center of the target. Could you please explain to us, why did you shoot all these times?”

It is very simple replied the Sufi. My first shot represented the person who overestimates himself and that’s why the arrow didn’t even hit the target. The second time I shot as a person who underestimates himself and that’s how the arrow hit the target but remained in the bottom. The third time I was simply myself and the arrow hit the center of the target.

Hitteth the mark
Partly by pulling,
Partly by letting go.
-Egyptian proverb

In Japanese culture, the Master Archer should be able to hit the target blindfolded in the dark and not even smirk at the success of hitting the target through rigorous spiritual development.

The use of bow and arrow was recorded extensively throughout the history of the Indian subcontinent, starting from the Vedic period. Vedic hymns in the Rigveda, Yajurveda, and Atharvaveda lay emphasis on the use of the bow and arrow. The second Veda, the Yajurveda contains Dhanurveda (dhanus "bow" and veda "knowledge"), which was an ancient treatise on the science of archery and its use in warfare.

In Christian tradition in Psalm 45:3-6, contains the statement, "Your arrows are sharp". What are the "arrows" of God? Perhaps there are many answers to that question, but these words spring readily to mind: "Now abide faith, hope, love, these three —but the greatest of these is love" (Corinthians 13:13). The arrows of God are faith, hope, and love which allows us to achieve Target, Energy & Penetration.

The first thing that an arrow needs is a target. Without a target to aim at, an arrow would seem to have little purpose. Archery without a target —just an undisciplined and aimless shooting of arrows into the air would not make much sense. It would be as silly as a race with nowhere to run to and nothing to run for, or a boxing match where the opponents just beat the air (Corinthians 9:26).

An Arrow Needs Energy, Without energy, an arrow would be a useless object. In archery, energy is transferred from the arm muscle into the bow, and imparted to the arrow by the string. Only then is the arrow of any use. This is one of a labor of love.

An Arrow Needs Penetration, Without the ability to penetrate, without being sharp, an arrow would be rather useless. Thus our labor of love should be penetrating both our hearts and the hearts of the people who know us. Love must live in us, and we must live in love. Love is like the air we breathe: we must abide in it, and it must abide in us. If we were not in the air, or if the air were not in us, we would die. You say to me, "Oh, I have love!" But I ask you, is it perfected love? There's the penetration of the hope arrow: boldness or confidence! You say to me, "Oh, I have hope!" But I ask you, are you bold in that hope?

In classical mythology, Cupid can be seen bearing a bow and arrow, Cupid means "passionate desire", it is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection. He is often portrayed as the son of the love goddess Venus and the god of war Mars.

He is also known in Latin as Amor ("Love"). His iconography acquired the bow and arrow that represent his source of power: a person, or even a deity, who is shot by Cupid's arrow is filled with uncontrollable desire.

This could be largely symbolic of the very story of creation and birth of human beings through sexual intercourse and the male sperm targeting, reaching & penetrating the fertile female eggs.

In the Valentines Day tradition of which Saint Valentine is associated with Cupid is one of the most famous symbols, his image, or sometimes one of a heart pierced by one of his arrows, is used to symbolize love.

San Valentino has an association with the tradition of courtly love. He is said to have ministered to the faithful amidst the persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire. Valentine's Day is widely recognized as a day for romance, love and devotion worldwide.

"Romance" originally referred not to a specific literary genre of art but to the vernacular French language which was called romanz (meaning that it was derived from the language spoken by the Romans)

The "courtly love" relationship is modelled on the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege lord. The knight serves his courtly lady (love service) with the same obedience, sacrifice and loyalty which he owes to his liege lord. She is in complete control of the love relationship, while he owes her obedience and submission.

The knight's love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favor. Thus "courtly love" was originally construed as an ennobling force whether or not it was consummated, and even whether or not the lady knew about the knight's love or loved him in return.

In Greek mythology, Apollo, the Greek god of archery is seen bearing the Golden Bow. Hephaestus gave it to him when he was a child after Apollo asked for it, needing the bow and arrows to protect his mother, Leto, from Python. After receiving them, Apollo cornered Python in the sacred cave at Delphi. Apollo killed the monster but had to be punished for it, since Python was a child of Gaea. Hence, he was exiled from Olympus for a long time.

The Sagittarius symbol is the ninth astrological sign, which is associated with the constellation Sagittarius and spans 240–270th degrees of the Zodiac and is depicted as a glyph with an Archer's arrow pointed skyward. As an archer, Sagittarius is said never to fail in hitting the mark and this depiction alludes to the power of prophecy, hence, the claim that seers and prophets are born in this sign.