Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs

Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs

5.0 3
by Adrienne Mayor
     
 

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 of Hercules and the Trojan War, the accounts of Herodotus and Thucydides, and modern methods of war and

Overview

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 of Hercules and the Trojan War, the accounts of Herodotus and Thucydides, and modern methods of war and terrorism.

Drawing on sources ancient and modern, Mayor describes ancient recipes for arrow poisons, booby traps rigged with plague, petroleum-based combustibles, 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 reprehensible?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This dense but highly informative volume narrates the long pretechnological history of the use of poisons and fire in warfare. Mayer, 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). They also put poison on arrowheads, in food and wine and in water supplies, tamed elephants to use as living tanks, bottled scorpions to throw over walls and knew about the problems of accidental casualties, enemy retaliation and lowering the ethical level of warfare. Mayor clearly describes how some of the poisons caused gruesome deaths, and Greek fire was essentially napalm. One antielephant weapon consisted of coating live pigs with pitch, setting them on fire and driving them at the elephants. The sheer mass of information will be daunting for the novice, particularly to one not familiar with classical mythology, but the book is otherwise absolutely absorbing, if macabre, and a formidable source on classical warfare, with bibliography, illustrations and annotations to serve further research. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781585673483
Publisher:
Overlook
Publication date:
08/25/2003
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Joseph E Persico
If you thought, as I did, that biochemical warfare began with poison gas in World War I, we were about 3,000 years off. Mayor's book astonishes with her revelations about such warfare among the ancients. She proves again that the only thing new under the sun is the history we haven't read. And she does so in that rare book that combines entertainment and education in equally palatable doses.
author of Roosevelt's Secret War
Robert Fagles
From myth to history, Hercules to Hannibal, battle-elephants to bubonic plague, Greek fire to napalm, here it is, told with brio, irony, and outrage—the story of man’s genius for turning natural forces into weapons of mass destruction.
noted translator of The Odyssey and The Oresteia
Martin van Creveld
A fascinating look at an oft-neglected subject. Adrienne Mayor has collected many stories concerning attempts to use chemical and biological weapons in ancient warfare and brings them to life.
author of The Sword and the Olive and The Transformation of War

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Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not being one for history before, I find myself extremly surprised that I am enjoying this book page by page. I have learned so many interesting facts through this book alone. Definetly recommend.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love to read history and I found this book to be an eye-opener. Biological warfare is not as recent as we like to think it is, and this book explains why. I also liked that it gave some reasonable explanations for incidents that were always portrayed as myth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Did the Hellenes use hellbore? Did the noble Romans fight with naptha? The answers will surprise and stimulate students of ancient warfare who read this remarkable new book.