Greek Fire Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World Summary Ô 7

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Weapons of biological and chemical warfare have been in use for thousands of years and Greek Fire Poison Arrows Scorpion Bombs Adrienne Mayor's exploration of the origins of controversial weaponry draws extraordinary connections between the mythical worlds. This was a reread for me This is an eye opening and often shocking account of the use of biological and chemical weapons by the ancient people of Greece Italy India and the Near East To uote Mayor Although it is tempting to imagine an ancient era innocent of biochemical weaponry in fact this Pandora's box of horrors was opened thousands of years ago There are accounts in Greek myths Hercules Philoctetes of the use of poison though the ancient Greek heroes were supposedly too noble to resort to such things However that did not stop Athena from suggesting poison arrows as a way to dispose of Penelope's unwanted suitors Ironically Odysseus was killed with a poisoned spear wielded by his son Telegonus Black hellebore Christmas rose was used to poison arrows and water supplies Of course it helped to have an antidote since it was uite easy to accidentally poison oneself in the process The water supply for the town of Kirrha was supposedly poisoned with hellebore Though there are various accounts of how this was accomplished the result was the same the destruction of the populace of Kirrha Around 150 CE Pausanias visited the area and wrote The plains around Kirrha are completely barren and people there will not plant trees because the land is still under a curse and trees will not grow there Harming noncombatants was supposedly against ancient Greek beliefs of fair war but Mayor states during sieges of cities the entire population was considered the enemy Ancient Indians used similar tactics in their wars In Arthashastra by Kautilya there are actual recipes for poisonous mixtures to use on the enemy These would cause blindness disease insanity or death There was a special smoke to destroy all animal life as far as it is carried off by the wind Obviously it's a form of poison gas There are also ancient accounts of plague being spread by arrows and various containers When the Chaldeans sacked and burned Solomon's temple in Jerusalem they are said to have opened copper vessels which they assumed contained treasure Instead they were attacked by a plague During the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE by the future Roman emperor Titus the second temple was destroyed Once again invaders broke open jars they assumed held treasure Instead Titus's reign saw one of the worst outbreaks of plague ever known There's also the fascinating story of Colchis the homeland of the infamous Medea Greek soldiers unwisely feasted on Colchian honey and soon began acting like intoxicated madmen Xenophon found his troops spread around on the ground as if they were under a spell They were totally incapacitated and some of them even died The survivors could not stand for three or four days The culprit Naturally toxic honey which was produced by bees from the nectar of the beautiful but poisonous rhododendron The powerful neurotoxin has no effect on bees but people are a different matter In very tiny doses it is used as a tonic or mild intoxicant It is still used today in a glass of milk as a pick me up believe it or not known as deli bal or miel fouAnother novel odd weapon is the use of insects such as bees and hornets There are accounts in the Bible of their use For example in Joshua hornets were used to drive away the Amorites In Nigeria the Tiv people kept bees in large horns which also contained a toxic powder The powder may have been used to calm the bees and make them safer to use During battle the bees would be released towards the enemy The Romans used catapults to launch hornets' nests at the enemy This was a tactic that was still being used centuries later by the Germans in the Thirty Years' War and by Ethiopians against Italian invaders in the 1930s Of course fire was also used as a weapon Writing around 360 BCE Aeneas the Tactician detailed how to supplement fires with chemicals He recommended pouring pitch down on the enemy or their siege weapons following by hemp and sulphur which would stick to the coating of pitch Then the pitch and sulphur mix was set afire The Phoenicians used fire ships against enemy vessels They would coat a ship with flammable mixtures set the ship on fire and send it towards the enemy with great effect They also used a mixture of sand and tiny bits of metal which they heated until it glowed red hot and then catapulted at the enemy The sandy metal mix sifted down under the soldiers' breastplates and seared their skin with the intense heat inflicting unavoidable pain Mayor concludes soberly Once created toxic weapons take on a life of their own resistent to destruction and threatening harm over generations Tons of still active chemical weapons from World Wars I and II lurk in long forgotten dumping areas releasing toxins and posing grave risks to unwitting finders She compares them to the plague demons in the jars in the temple in Jerusalem and the golden casket in Babylon Amazingly during excavations of the historic fort at the Presidio in San Francisco archeologists discovered glass vials of still toxic mustard gas that was buried by the US military during World War II 60 years earlier How are we to dispose of still deadly chemical and nuclear weapons This is the only second time I have read this book and it was definitely not easy The subject is sobering incredibly sad and terrifying Thousands of years ago people were using horrific weapons against each other Things have not changed This is still going on One can only hope that a deeper understanding of toxic warfare's mythic origins and earliest historic realities might help divert the drive to transform all nature into a deadly arsenal into the search for better ways to heal Then Appian's sorrowful words about war 'They left nothing untried that was within the compass of human energy' could refer to human ingenuity striving to turn nature's forces to good

Review Greek Fire Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World

Greek Fire Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient WorldOf Hercules and the Trojan War the accounts of Herodotus and Thucydides and modern methods of war and terrorismDrawing on sources ancient and modern Mayor describes ancient recipes for arrow poisons booby traps rigged with plague petroleum based combustible. Adrienne Mayor starts with intelligently expanding the normal contemporary definition of 'chemical and biological' weapons to include pretty much anything that causes biological harm such as poisons noxious chemicals and beyond to the use of animals heated sand and other unusual items Her book then combs all the ancient sources for examples of these in the ancient world There's a concentration on Greek and Roman sources but there are repeated references to Indian and Chinese uses as wellThe problem is that the phrase 'unusual items' above does describe the book While grouped into chapters for broad topics its really a bunch of mini essays on what are often 'one off' uses of poisons and disease and shows little systematic use of any of these On the other hand it does very well with making the point that the concepts were not unknown and that even where deliberately spreading a disease might be difficult to do reliably people were thinking about how to do itSadly the first item in the title of the book Greek Fire is the last thing discussed and it doesn't get much It is shown that it is descended from earlier petroleum based fire weapons What was special about it was the delivery system and that isn't even speculated onOverall the book does well in showing that despite generally being ignored in histories of the era 'chemical and biological' weapons were very much on the minds of the ancients and it shows that they were probably in regular use with peoples we don't have a lot of records from It also shows that Western attitudes towards them match up with Greek and Roman thought pointing out how the 'boomerang' effect of poisons and disease feature prominently in early myths But the mini essay approach undermines the cohesion of the work especially when the same thing is re introduced over and over yes by the sixth time it's brought up I'm pretty sure I remember that the Arthashastra is from India

Adrienne Mayor ☆ 7 Characters

Greek Fire Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World Summary Ô 7 ì Weapons of biological and chemical warfare have been in use for thousands of years and Greek Fire Poison Arrows Scorpion Bombs Adrienne Mayor's exploration of the S choking gases and the deployment of dangerous animals and venomous snakes and insects She also explores the ambiguous moral implications inherent in this kind of warfare Are these nefarious forms of weaponry ingenious or cowardly Admirable or reprehensibl. An outstanding detailed and well researched book about chemical and biological weapons since the dawn of time literally neolithic combatants tossed beehives into adversaries' caves An engaging and illuminating read for historians military arts aficionados and general readers My only issue and what kept it from being 5 stars is that there is a lot of rehashing about the same items and those using them again in subseuent chapters Hell the book itself refers to its own references over and again so the writer makes you self aware that it is self aware