Did the verb “fire a weapon” exist before the actual introduction of firearms on battlefields?
More specifically, does it make sense for a creative work to have archers (or whatever ranged weaponry) be told to “fire!”, when the world they live in has not yet seen firearms? It seems some kind of an anachronism to me, since before firearms, “fire” would never propel any projectile...
I've seen several movies do it; I can't remember them all, but for instance I verified it in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (left), Kingdom of Heaven (top right), and more recently Frozen (bottom right):
The first two do it several times (with Kingdom of Heaven also using it on ballistae, and The Return of the King even having Aragorn ask Legolas to “fire a warning shot past the bosun's ear”), whereas firearms never appear on the battlefields they feature (Kingdom of Heaven is set in the 12th century; as for The Lord of the Rings, apart from one occurrence of a witchcraft-ish bomb, it's archery and medieval siege engines all the way). Frozen may be debatable, happening probably somewhere in the 18th or 19th century, but since we only see swords, spears and the like, it made me flinch to hear crossbowmen use “fire!”.
I've also noticed other movies avoiding this, using “loose!” instead, such as Troy (left) and Gladiator (right):
This makes me think it would be the right thing to say instead... although I'm still wondering why not use “shoot”, which seems simpler to me.