- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd (29 Oct. 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0715638521
- ISBN-13: 978-0715638521
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,051,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological Warfare in the Ancient World Paperback – 29 Oct 2009
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'Illuminating... Adrienne Mayor marshals not just myth, but also the writing of ancient authors and evidence from archaeological digs to show that biological and chemical weapons saw action in battles long before the modern era' --New York Times
'A sound and very imaginative account... Mayor's historical research has made a significant contribution toward filling in the gaps of knowledge concerning weaponry in the classical age' --Newsday
'Mayor recounts in lively, sometimes darkly comic detail, the diabolical strategems devised by devious warriors for tactical ends' --Discover
About the Author
Adrienne Mayor is a classical folklorist who specializes in the early history of science. The author of 'Poison King', Mayor is a frequent contributor to 'Archaeology', 'MHQ' and 'Folklore', and is often interviewed by NPR, BBC, 'New York Times', 'USA Today' and The History Channel.
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Overarching Greek mythological themes include Hercules's Hydra-venom arrows and his gruesome death owing to a poisoned shirt, in similar vein to the gown received as a gift from the sorceress Medea and donned by the Corinthian princess Glauke; and the accidentally self-inflicted wound of Philoctetes on his way to the Trojan War. Among the historical personages and locations that come up frequently we find Alexander the Great, Mithridates VI of Pontus (d. 63 BCE), and Syracuse (Sicily).
Topics discussed: poison arrows, especially those of the Scythians and the related toxin known as "scythicon" (drawing on sources from Herodotus, Aristotle, Theophrastus, and Aelian; pp. 77-86); venomous plants used in warfare (hellebore species, aconite, nightshade); poisoning drinking water, toxic honey, contaminated wine, etc.; plagues as weapons of war, i.e., driving disease-ridden animals to enemy land or sending 'poison maidens' to their camp; the idea that certain temples in the ancient world were utilized for storing contagious pathogens (and their antidotes?); deployment of chemical incendiaries and protective measures against them; and much more. While certainly interesting, the inclusion of war dogs, elephants, camels, etc. (chapter 6) in a discussion about bio/chemical weapons is quite a bit of stretch for me.
+ I don't think it's wise to call the respective territory of the Iberian Peninsula Spain and its inhabitants Spanish or Spaniards in the context of Carthaginian and Roman campaigns (pgs. 14, 72, 108, 155, 203, 225), but rather Iberians or, as the author does on one occasion (p. 155), "Celtiberians" or Ibero-Celts.
+ A. Mayor asserts that Hungarians catapulted beehives at the Turks in 1289 (p. 180). Hardly so...Ottoman Turks first set foot on the European continent in the 1350s. One of the first major battles in the Balkans was fought between a Serb-led multi-ethnic Christian army and the Muslims at Kosovo Polye in 1389.
Endnotes (pp. 259-93); bibliography (pp. 296-305). The illustrations are carefully selected; an historical time line (pp. 11-17) and an incomplete index facilitate navigating in the book.