Friday, September 26, 2003

Biological Weapons Date To Classic Age

"In the celebrated epic poem, the Iliad, about noble heroes fighting honorable battles, both sides actually used arrows dipped in snake venom,' said Adrienne Mayor, author of 'Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World' (published this month by Overlook Press). "

"This dense but highly informative volume narrates the long pretechnological history of the use of poisons and fire in warfare. Mayor, who has published in Military History Quarterly, begins with the first legend of poisoned arrows: Hercules and his quiver of missiles tipped with the hydra's venom (probably snake venom). He and his wife also figure in an early use of an externally applied poison-the "poisoned" garments that killed them both with an inextinguishable flame may have been impregnated with saltpeter. Using their powers of observation and a sound if rule-of-thumb grasp of cause and effect, our not-so-primitive ancestors went on to set fires, throw fires and project fires (Greek fire reached its apex when flung from a ship-mounted flame thrower)."
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