Ancient History & Civilisation



1 The chimerical adjective “biochemical” is often used as a catchall term to denote biological and chemical agents in general. Poupard and Miller 1992, 9. Other historians of biochemical warfare accept the common assumption that there is very little ancient evidence for biological and chemical strategies. “Given the potential advantage that could accrue from biological weapons,” comments the historian of biological and chemical warfare Mark Wheelis (1999, 8), “it is surprising that there are so few recorded instances of their use.” The noted biological and chemical warfare authority Julian Perry Robinson (2002) remarks that “the exploitation of disease as a weapon of war is exceedingly rare in the historical record,” as were the uses of poison and chemicals. In her study of smallpox in Colonial America, Fenn 2000, 1573, is typical in claiming that ancient Greeks lacked technical knowledge for carrying out bio-war. According to biological and chemical warfare scholar Cole, 1996, the frequency of poison weapon use antiquity was “minimized” because of ancient taboos.

2 It is asserted in some histories of biological warfare (e.g., Miller 1998) that the ancient Assyrians (whose civilization began around 2400 BC in modern Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq) poisoned enemies’ wells with LSD-LIKE ergot, a fungus of rye, wheat, and other grains. It appears that ergot is referred to in Assyrian texts, but there is no basis for the notion that the hallucinogen was deliberately used against foes.

3 Definitions of biological and chemical warfare: The 1972 bioweapons convention bans “microbial or other biological agents, or toxins whatever their origin or method of production, of types or quantities that have no justification for prophylactic, protective, or other peaceful purposes.” This includes living agents such as insects, and toxins produced from them. For a comprehensive definition of biological weapons, see Federation of American Scientists “Special Weapons Primer,” Definitions of chemical weapons: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) 1971 and 1975, 202-6. See also history and definitions of biological and chemical weapons at Robertson and Robertson 1995, 369, exclude forcing enemies into “unsanitary” areas and bio-terrorism from their definition of bio-war. Poupard and Miller 1992, 9, separate biological weaponry which uses “viable organisms,” from “bacterial toxins and related chemical derivatives of microorganisms,” which they believe should be categorized as chemical weapons (CW). Biological warfare is defined as “the use of pathogens, . . . disease-causing bacterial and viral agents, or biologically derived toxins against humans, animals, and crops,” according to Croddy 2002, 219; on 130 Croddy notes that “while purists would not consider Greek Fire” and ancient incendiaries as “true CW, these early flame- and smoke-producing techniques have direct [and indirect] connections with the modern use of toxic substances on the battlefield.”

4 Every arms innovation in antiquity was regarded as inhumane and dishonorable at first. When the new catapult technology of the fourth century BC was demonstrated to the Spartan general Archidamus, for example, he exclaimed, “Now what will become of valor?” Plutarch, Moralia“Sayings of Spartans” 219. In the 1100s, the crossbow was singled out as inhumane; gunpowder raised similar criticism in the 1300s. But “today’s secret weapons had the nasty habit of becoming tomorrow’s universal threat,” notes O’Connell, “Secret Weapons” in Cowley and Parker 1996, 417-19.

5 Criteria for evaluating attempts to deploy disease as a weapon since the Middle Ages are discussed by Wheelis 1999, 9, who restricts his discussion of biological warfare before 1914 to the intent to transmit contagion, leaving out the use of toxins and pollution of wells.

6 Poison weapons have “long been regarded as peculiarly reprehensible [and] subject to express prohibition since ancient times,” in Greece, Rome, India, and in the Koran, remarks Robinson 2002. He suggests that this “ancient taboo” reflects a “human impulse against the hostile use” of disease and chemicals that is “multicultural, multiethnic, and longstanding.” Banning biochemical arsenals today “goes to the roots of what humankind finds acceptable and unacceptable.” Indeed, the ancient “taboo may be our one remaining hope” as science and commerce push biotechnology still more deeply into developing “immensely threatening new weapons.” Leonard Cole, discussing the ancient “poison taboo,” proposed that the “moral repugnance [and] deep-seated aversion” to such weapons going back thousands of years helps explain their rarity in the past. But Cole’s claim that “the Greeks and Romans condemned the use of poison in war as a violation of . . . the law of nations,” projects a seventeenth century concept (“law of nations”) into antiquity (see note 9, below). “Poisons and other weapons considered inhumane were forbidden [in] India around 500 BC and among the Saracens 1,000 years later,” continues Cole 1996, 64, 65. Neufeld 1980, 46-47.

7 Creveld 1991, 23, points out that what is “considered acceptable behavior in war is historically determined, neither self-evident nor unalterable.” See also Fenn 2000, 1573-74. Strabo, 10.1.12-13. For differing views of the development of Greek conventions of war and military protocols from Homeric epic to the Peloponnesian War, see Ober 1994 and Krentz 2002.

8 Krentz 2002, 25. Nostalgic notions of the ancient “poison taboo” were evident in the late Middle Ages. A pledge taken in about 1650 by German artillery gunners vowed never to employ poison projectiles on the grounds that “the first inventors of our art thought such actions as unjust . . . as unworthy of a man of heart and a true soldier.” From the SIPRI Web site, Ober 1994, 14; on hoplite battle, 14-17. Hansen 1989. Sallust, Jugurthine War, chapter 11, 101.

9 Creveld 1991, 27, points out that “war by definition consists of killing, of deliberately shedding the blood of fellow creatures.” Killing cannot be tolerated unless it is “carefully circumscribed by rules” defining what is permissible and what is not. The line between murder and war is essential but never precise. Hugo Grotius, considered the originator of international law (1625-31), condemned the use of poison in warfare as a violation of what he called the Laws of Nations and Natural Law. He argued, citing various ancient Greek and Roman writers (Livy, Claudian, Cicero, Gellius, Valerius, Florus, and Tacitus), that by general consent war is murderous enough without making it more so by poisons. On Grotius and ancient rules of war, see Penzer 1952, 5-6. Drummond 1989 notes that “laws of war are currently recognized as customary practices which are intended to reduce the amount of suffering in wartime to a minimum and to facilitate the restoration of peace.” There is a modern sense that the level of destruction in wartime should be limited to “minimum necessary force.” On Western laws of war from ancient Greece to the late twentieth century, see Howard et al. 1994; SIPRI 1975, 18-20. On ethics of war, see Nardin 1996.

10 Righteous warfare, dharmayuddha, was opposed to kutayuddha, crafty, ruthless strategies. Laws of Manu 7.90; 92; and 195. Arthashastra: Kautilya 1951, 436-37; Kautilya 1992. Ishii: Lesho et al. 1998, 516. China: Cowley and Parker 1996, s.v. “Sun Tzu” and see review by Sienho Yee, of Zhu Wen-Qi, Outline of International Humanitarian Law (Shanghai: International Committee of the Red Cross, 1997, in Chinese, with an English abstract).

11 Deuteronomy 19-20. Jericho: Joshua 6.21, 24. On ancient Jewish rules of war, see Nardin 1996, 95, 97-98, 106-9. The ten plagues in Exodus are discussed in chapter 4.

12 Koran 2.11-12; 2.190-94; 3.172; 22.19-22; 22.39-40; and later Islamic traditions in the Hadith. John Kelsay, personal correspondence, February 2, 2003. Sheikh Hamza Yusuf interviewed by Goldstein 2001. See also Nardin 1996, 129-33, 161-64, 166 notes 25 and 26. Hashmi forthcoming. History of Muslim fire weapons: Bilkadi 1995.

13 Polybius 13.3.2-6. Krentz 2002, 25. Strabo 10.1.12-13. See chapter 3 for the story of the destruction of Kirrha by poison. Ober 1994, 12, 14. Drummond 1989, introduction. Herodotus on Queen Tomyris, see chapter 5. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 1.49; 3.82-83, atrocities against noncombatants and children, e.g., 3.81-82; 7.29-30. For Aeneas, see chapters 3 and 7.

14 Cicero discussed just war in On Duties 1.34-6, esp. 21-25, and in his Republic, which only survives in paraphrases in later sources. According to Cicero, war was justified for self-defense, defense of allies, and vengeance. Ovid and Silius Italicus, see chapter 2; Florus, chapter 3. Tacitus,Germania 43. Vegetius, On Military Matters 3. On changing rules of war in the Roman Empire, see Drummond 1989, a case study of the period AD 353 to 378.

15 Self-defense in extremity and last resorts: Nardin 1996, 28-29, 86-88. Roman Stoic commanders idealized Odysseus: Krentz and Wheeler introduction to Polyaenus, 1:vi-xxiv, esp. vii, xii. On use of inhumane weapons against “cultural others,” see Mayor 1995b; Fenn 2000, 1574. On challenges to rules of war through history, and situations that encourage violations, see chapter 12 of Howard et al. 1994.

16 “Greek mythology, always a good source of insight,” depicted warriors punished for breaking conventions of war or committing excessive brutalities, notes Creveld in his article on changing rules of war since the Gulf War of 1991 (1991, 27). Whirlwind: O’Connell, “Secret Weapons,” in Cowley and Parker 1996, 419.

Chapter 1

1 Dioscorides’ statement appears in book 6 of the Materia Medica, an extensive collection of medical and pharmacology texts attributed to the physician Dioscorides. Majno 1991, 145, 147 and note 38. Pliny the Elder 16.51 gives the folk etymology associating yew and poison: see Harrison 1994. See also Reinach 1909, 70. Thanks to Joshua Katz for linguistic advice.

2 Hercules’ struggle with the Hydra is one of earliest myths depicted in Greek art, appearing as early as the eighth century BC. The Hydra myth is recounted in Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.62-75; Apollodorus, Library 2.5.2; Diodorus of Sicily 4.11, and other sources. For a full discussion of the myth in ancient literature and art, see Gantz 1993, 1:23, 384-86. On pitch from trees in antiquity, see Pliny 16.52-61.

3 The deaths of Chiron and Pholus, and wounding of Telephus: Apollodorus, Library 2.5.4; Epitome 3.17-20, and see Frazer’s notes 1 and 2, 2:186-89. Centaurs dying of Hercules’ poison arrows were featured in many famous sculptures and paintings in antiquity. Places where they had died, polluting waters with the poison, were also pointed out. Telephus’s wounding was the subject of several ancient plays and paintings. Pliny 25.42; 34.152. Gantz 1993, 1:147, 390-92, see also 2:579. Telephus’s infected wound was healed by rust scrapings from Achilles’ spear; see chapter 2.

4 Death of Hercules: Apollodorus, Library 2.7.7, with Frazer’s note 1, 1:270-71; Sophocles, Trachinian Women 756ff.; Diodorus of Sicily 4.38; Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.100-238. See Gantz 1993, 1:458. For the burning, corrosive symptoms of the bite of the dipsasviper, see Scarborough 1977, 6, quoting Lucan, Civil War.

5 On Troy, and the cycle of stories about the Trojan War, see Oxford Classical Dictionary, entries for “Troy” and “Homer”; Gantz 1993, 2:576-657; Rose 1959, 230-53.

6 Homer, Iliad 1.50-70, 376-86; 2.731-33; 4.138-219; 11.812-48. Reinach 1909, 70, points out other linguistic hints of empoisoned arrows in Homer, who often uses words that evoke the imagery of snakebites to describe arrows, such as “biting, burning, and bitter.” See Majno 1991, 145-47 and note 35, on “sucking out of snakebite wounds” in antiquity; see also 271, on black blood indicating poisoned arrows; for ancient treatment of snakebite by sucking out the venom and cautery, see 280. See Scarborough 1977, 6, 8-9, for vivid and accurate ancient descriptions of the sequelae of snake envenomation.

7 Homer, Iliad 2.725-39. That Philoctetes’ ships were rowed by archers was considered historical by the fifth-century BC Greek historian Thucydides 1.10. Gantz 1993, 1:459-60; 2:589-90, 625-28, 635-38, 700-701 surveys the Philoctetes stories in literature and art. Apollodorus, Epitome 3.26-27, 5.8-10, and see Frazer’s note 2, 2:194-97, and note 1, 2:222-23. See Sophocles’ play Philoctetes (409 BC); Euripides, Aeschylus, and two other playwrights also wrote Philoctetes tragedies, now lost. Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy9.334-480. Philoctetes’ suffering was depicted in vase paintings and other art works, with the earliest known art dating to 460 BC. The shrine to Philoctetes on Chryse could be visited through the first century AD, but in about AD 150, the island was submerged by earthquakes. Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.77; Pausanias 8.33.4. Scarborough 1977, 7, 9.

8 Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy 3.58-82 and 148-50; 9.353-546. Ovid, Metamorphoses 12.596-628.

9 On the ideal of fighting up close, not “at long range” (i.e., with arrows), in the “front ranks for action and for honor,” and avoiding blows “from behind on nape or back, but [taking them] in the chest or belly as you wade into . . . the battle line,” see, e.g., Homer,Iliad 8.94f; 12.42; 13.260-300; 16.791, 806f. See Salazar 2000, 156-57, for a good discussion of the criticism of archers and the ideals of fighting face-to-face and avoiding wounds in the back. On ancient negative opinions about projectiles in war, see Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. “archers.” The bow and arrow as “unheroic weapon”: Faraone 1992, 125.

10 Virgil, Aeneid 9.770-74. Philoctetes after Troy and his last years: Gantz 1993, 2:700-701. Philoctetes’ dedication of the weapons: Euphorion cited by Apollodorus, Epitome 6.15b; Pseudo-Aristotle, On Marvelous Things Heard 107 (115), says that Philoctetes dedicated the weapons in the Temple of Apollo at Macalla, near Krimissa, and that the citizens of Croton later transferred them to their own temple of Apollo. Ancient vases, coins, gems, and sculptures depicted Philoctetes receiving Hercules’ quiver, wounded and abandoned, taking arrows from his quiver, shooting birds, fanning flies from his unhealing wound, shooting Paris, and so on.

11 Homer, Odyssey 2.235-30; 1.252-66. On the moral and historic meaning of this passage, see Dirlmeier 1966. Gantz 1993, 2:711-13; 732 (Circe). Ovid, Metamorphoses 7.406-25 (Cerberus), 14.41-68, 264-302 (Circe). Birds killed by fumes: Pliny 4.2. The stingray spear was made by Hephaestus, at Circe’s request. The ray, perhaps a marbled blue stingray common in the Mediterranean, had been killed by Phorkys, a Triton, and the thorny, serrated spine was forged onto a shaft inlaid with adamantine and gold. See chapter 2 for evidence of the actual use of stingray spines as weapons.

12 Sophocles, Trachinian Women 573-74. The paradoxical figure of Hercules is discussed by Faraone 1992, 59.

13 The “poisoner poisoned” folk motif is a widespread and ancient theme: for examples see the standard folklore reference work, Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk-Literature, motifs K1613. The reason for the deaths at Bari was covered up by the U.S. military: Harris and Paxman 1982, 77-79, 119-25. The U.S. troops’ health problems have also been attributed in part to vaccinations against biochemical arms in 1991. On the origins of Iraq’s biological weapons, see note 4, chapter 5, and Shenon 2003.

14 Faraone 1992, 125 on combined plague and fire imagery. Poisons and incendiaries combined: see chapter 7 and Partington 1999, 149, 209-11, 271, 273, 284-85.

15 Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy 9.386-89. On Greek atrocities during the sack of Troy see Gantz 1993, 2:650-57; for ancient sources, see note 3 in chapter 3. Painting on the Acropolis: Pausanias 1.22.4. Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.170-204; and Ovid, Tristia.

Chapter 2

1 Galen (second century AD) cited in Scarborough 1977, 3 and note 1. See Scarborough’s discussion of the ancient dread of venomous snakes and the many Greek and Roman treatises on plant and animal poisons and antidotes, some effective and some bizarre. Homer, Iliad 3.35-47.

2 Aelian, On Animals 9.40, 1.54, 5.16, 9.15. Pseudo-Aristotle, On Marvelous Things Heard 844 b 80 (140), claims that wasps that have feasted on poisonous adder’s flesh have a sting worse than the adder’s bite.

3 Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy 9.392-97. Pausanias 2.37.4. Diodorus of Sicily 4.38. On symptoms of snakebites and Nicander, see Scarborough 1977, 6-9. Dipsas, seps, aspis, kerastes, and echis are a few of the names for Viperidae in ancient texts. Vipera ammodytes, Cerastes species,Vipera berus, and Echis carinata are some of the poisonous snakes known to Greeks and Romans.

4 Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy 9.392-97. Hercules shooting the deer, the Centaurs, and the man-eating Stymphalean birds: Gantz 1993, 1:387-88; 390-92, 394. According to Grmek 1979, 143, and Reinach 1909, 56, classical Greek authors felt that using weapons intended for hunting animals in battles with men was an odious practice, rather than an acceptable military stratagem. This attitude explains why Homer had King Ilus refuse to give Odysseus poison for “murdering men.” See Lesho et al. 1998, 512, on the psychological terror of biological projectiles.

5 Galen and Paul of Aegina referred to Dacian and Dalmatian arrow poisons, Salazar 2000, 28. Hellebore: Majno 1991, 147, 188-93. Pliny 25.47-61. Pseudo-Aristotle, On Marvelous Things Heard 837 a 10 (86). Hadzabe tribe of Tanzania: Martin 2001. For a survey of Celtic and other ancient arrow poisons and antidotes, see Reinach 1909.

6 Ovid, Metamorphoses 7, origin of aconite. Aelian, On Animals 9.18, 4.49. Pliny 6.4 (the town of Aconae on the Black Sea was of “evil repute for the poison called aconite”); 8.100; 22.18 (nature’s weapons); 27.4-10; for antidotes see 20.132; 23.43, 92, 135; 25.163; 28.161; 29.74, 105. Aconite in India: Penzer 1952, 11. Moors and aconite: Partington 1999, 231 note 103. Aconite bullets: Harris and Paxman 1982, 61. On septic bullets, see Wheelis 1999, 34. Henbane: Aelian, On Animals 9.32. Pliny 23.94; 25.35-37. See also Majno 1991, 387.

7 Poison-arrow frogs: Lori Hamlett, Nashville Zoo, Tennessee, Psylli: Pliny, 25.123; Aelian, On Animals 1.57; 16.28. Curare: Economic Botany Web pages of University of California, Los Angeles, In North America, the Iroquois, Apaches, Navajos, and other tribes used poison arrows: Reinach 1909, 52-53 and note 1. Hemlock: Aelian, On Animals 4.23. Rolle 1989, 65.

8 Aelian, On Animals 9.27. Pliny 16.51; 21.177-79. Majno 1991, 488 note 38. Also see Harrison 1994. Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe 6.780-86, may have been speaking of yew when he mentioned a tree whose “shade was so oppressive as to provoke a headache in one who lies under it.” Arrow poisons can be very long-lived. Recent toxicological analysis of desiccated poison paste on arrows collected in the 1900s in Assam, India, and Burma, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, revealed that the longevity of the toxin was thirteen hundred years! Victoria and Albert Museum Web site: Rhododendron honey as a weapon: chapter 5.

9 Aelian, On Animals 4.41; Ctesias Fragment 57.17. As a safety precaution to avoid pricking themselves with the lethal toxin, the San Bushmen place the insect guts on the shaft just behind the arrowhead: Robertson 2002. Aristotle and Nicander on toxic beetles: Scarborough 1979, 13-14, 20-21, 73-80. The powerful toxin pederin is now being tested as an anticancer drug. Frank and Kanamitsu 1987 (thanks to Robert Peterson for this reference).

10 Aelian, On Animals 1.56; 2.36 and 50; 8.26. Pliny 9.147 on the “burning sting” of jellyfish and sea urchins. For ancient sources for the story of the stingray spear, see Apollodorus, Epitome 7.36-37 and Frazer’s note 2, pp. 303-304. Thanks to Dolores Urquidi, Austin, Texas, for sharing her research into the use of stingray spines as arrowheads in Central and South America. Schultz 1962, 130, 132. For facts about aconite, henbane, belladonna, curare, and stingrays, see “Poisonous Plants and Animals,” copyright Team C007974,

11 Ancient writers on poison archery: Reinach 1909, 54-56 and notes. Hua T’o removed a poisoned arrow that pierced the arm of General Kuan Yu, about eighteen hundred years ago: Majno 1991, 249-51, Fig. 6.19. Bradford 2001, 160. Strabo 16.4.10. Silius Italicus, Punica 1.320-415, 3.265-74. Ancient Greek and Roman authors who mention arrow poisons: Salazar 2000, 28-30. Poisoned arrows were reportedly used in violent uprisings in Kenya in August 1997, according to CNN news reports. Lesho et al. 1998, 512, notes that the use of “biological projectiles . . . persisted into the 20th century during the Russian Revolution, various European conflicts, and the South African Boer wars.”

12 On the history of the bow and arrow and advances in archery technology, see Crosby 2002, 37-39, and his chapter 5. Herodotus’s book 4 describes the Scythians, see esp 4.9. Rolle 1989, 65. For example, a Corinthian vase of 590 BC (Antikenmuseum, Basel, Switzerland) shows Athena holding out a phial for the Hydra poison. Akamba poison arrows: information from Timothy F. Bliss, former resident of Kenya; and descriptions of Akamba bow, quiver, and poison arrows from the 1970s offered for sale in 2002 by the Krackow Company, New Wilmington, Pennsylvania, specializing in traditional, worldwide archery equipment.

13 The recipe in Pseudo-Aristotle, On Marvelous Things Heard 845 a 5 (141) states that human blood was buried in a dunghill until it putrefied, then the contaminated blood was mixed with the rotten venom. Aelian, On Animals 9.15, citing a lost work by Theophrastus. Dioscorides also mentions the toxicon pharmacon of the Scythians, 1.106, 2.79. See Reinach 1909, 54-55. Unless it was collected separately, the venom itself would probably lose neurotoxicity if allowed to decompose in the snake.

14 Plutarch, Artaxerxes. Pungee sticks: Christopher et al. 1997, 412. Strabo 11.2.19 (first century BC). Modern stench weapons are based on the finding that excrement and rotting corpses are the two universally intolerable odors for humans across cultures—and with good reason, since corpses and feces are sources of potentially lethal pathogens. The logic was evident in the prescientific era, when foul odors or miasmas were thought to actually cause disease: Wheelis 1999, 11 note 10; Creveld 1991, 25; and see New York Times Magazine, December 15, 2002, 126. U.S. military scientists are developing stench and colored smoke weapons that target racial groups: “When Killing Just Won’t Do” 2003. Rolle 1989, 65. Excrement as weapon in prescientific era: In China (AD 800-1600) defenders of cities poured boiling urine and feces on attackers: Wheelis 1999, note 4, and see Temple 1991, 223, for the use of poison arrows and 216 for excrement explosives in early China. In 1422, two thousand cartloads of excrement were hurled at foes at Carolstein: Eitzen and Takafuji 1997. Parts of this section on Scythian arrow poison appeared in different form in Mayor 1997a. Thanks to herpetologist Aaron Bauer, Villanova University, for information on poisonous snakes of Scythia and India and the feasibility of venom arrows. On tetanus in domestic animal dung and death from tetanus after arrow wounds, see Majno 1991, 199-200. Ancient descriptions of gangrene and tetanus: Salazar 2000, 30-34.

15 Ovid, Tristia 3.10.64; Letter from Pontus 1.2.17; 4.7.11 and 10.31, cited in Reinach 1909, 55, note 5. Armenian arrows: see chapter 7. Rolle 1989, 65. Barbed arrows in antiquity: Salazar 2000, 18-19, 49, 232-33. Superfluous injury: Unlike the blade of a Greek hoplite’s javelin or Roman soldier’s sword, which passed cleanly through a body and could be easily pulled out, the use of long-distance projectiles and missiles with hooked shapes caused more tissue damage and loss of blood. Modern analogies to the misgivings evoked by such arms are evident in the 1899 Hague Convention’s Declaration Concerning Expanding Bullets, prohibiting the newly developed “manstopping” dumdum bullets that expanded on impact and left gaping, ragged wounds instead of penetrating cleanly at high velocity like streamlined metal-jacketed bullets. The expanding bullets were invented at Dum-Dum Arsenal in India in the 1890s to stop fanatical fighters in Afghanistan and India. Current U.S. and NATO copper-jacket, lead-core bullets do fragment on impact, but still cause less damage than exploding bullets. One might compare the Greek hoplite’s spear to the metal-jacket bullet as ancient and modern icons of “clean” warfare “by the rules,” whereas a hooked arrow coated with venom was the ancient equivalent of a dumdum bullet combined with a bio-toxin. See 1907 Hague Convention IV, also 1977 additions to the 1949 Geneva Convention. As early as 1868, the Saint Petersburg Declaration prohibited exploding bullets on the rationale that such weapons are contrary to the laws of humanity because they “uselessly aggravate the sufferings of disabled men, or render their death inevitable.” Howard et al. 1994, 6-7, 120-21 (1899 Hague rules). Thanks to Mark Wheelis for helpful information on dumdum bullets.

16 Rudenko 1970, 217-18, and color plates 179-80. For patterns of poisonous snakes of Scythian territory, see Phelps 1981, 97-102, 162-64, Figs. 26-30, color plates 16 and 17.

17 Mining gems with arrows: Pliny 37.110-12. Rolle 1989, 65-66; Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. “archers.” Modern ethnological parallels suggest the rate of twenty arrows a minute, but the expert Scythians may have been faster.

18 Aelian, On Animals 4.36 describes death by ingestion of tiny amounts (the size of a sesame seed) of the Purple Snake poisons placed in wine, but the sticky residue would serve very well as arrow poisons. For an ancient account of men killed by drinking from a spring poisoned by snake venom, see Aelian, 17.37; and on similar fears in Libya, see Lucan, Civil War, 9.605-20. Thanks to Aaron Bauer and Robert Murphy, senior curator of herpetology, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, for help in identifying the Purple Snake. Kautilya 1951, 449.

19 Strabo 15.2.5-7. Majno 1991, 283, citing the ancient historian Arrian, Indica 8.15. Other sources for Alexander’s campaign in India are Quintus Curtius Rufus, Justin, Diodorus of Sicily. See Polyaenus 4.3.22 for Alexander’s strategies against Porus. On Chandragupta: Bradford 2001, 125-27. About fifteen thousand people die annually from snakebite in India today: Majno 1991, 283.

20 Alexander and contemporary historians referred to the “Brahmans” of Harmatelia as an ethnic group, unaware of the Hindu caste system. Diodorus of Sicily 17.102-103. Strabo 15.2.7. Quintus Curtius 9.8.13-28. Viper constipation: Angier 2002. Aelian, On Animals 12.32, remarks that Indian doctors knew which herbs counteracted the “very violent and rapid spread” of snake venom. Symptomology of viper and cobra envenomation from discussions with Aaron Bauer and Scarborough 1977, 8-9.

21 According to Reinach 1909, 55-56, note 9, the Rigveda epic of India contains references to poison arrows. Laws of Manu 7.90, see Buhler 1886, 230. Majno 1991, 264. The Arthashastra, attributed to Kautilya (also known as Chanakya), in its surviving form also contains material from the first to fifth centuries AD. Kautilya 1951, 442-455, 449 (terror effects), and Book 14. Indian Defence Ministry experiments at University of Pune and National Institute of Virology: Rahman 2002. U.S. military research into pharmaceutical and genome-based anti-sleep agents: Onion 2002; and see the DARPA Web site:

22 Pliny 34.152-54; 25.33, 42, 66-69, 99. The rust treatment is mentioned by Apollodorus and Ovid, too: Gantz 2:579. The effect of rust on poison arrow wounds is unknown, but myrrh has antiseptic properties. Majno 1991, 218, 370, 387-389, and Fig. 9.25. Aelian, On Animals 1.54. Scarborough 1977, 11, 12-18. Salazar 2000, 29.

23 Immunity to venom and poisons: Aelian, On Animals 5.14; 9.29; 16.28. Pliny 7.13-14, 27; 8.229; 11.89-90. Strabo 13.1.14. See chapter 5 on Mithridates.

24 Aelian, On Animals 9.62. Strabo 13.1.14. Cato and the Psylli: Lucan, Civil War 9.600-949. Pliny 11.89-90.

25 On treating poisoned arrow wounds, see Salazar 2000, 28-30; black blood of poison wounds; 29; removing barbed projectiles; 48-50. Majno 1991, compares Greek and Indian arrow wound treatments in the fourth century BC. See 142-45 on treating arrow wounds in Homer: of 147 wounds, the survival rate was 77.6 percent (quote, 143). See 171 (red vs. black blood); 193-95, 266, 271-72 (treating arrow wounds); 279-80 (sucking out venom); 359-61 (removing barbed arrows); 381 (Celsus on the Psylli). “Gloom”: Scarborough 1977, 3.

Chapter 3

1 Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 7.84. Strabo 15.2.6. Poupard and Miller 1992, 10, on thirst and poisoning water. Wheelis 1999, 9 note 3, agreed with military historian Milton Leitenberg that contaminating water in antiquity was intended to deny potable water rather than to spread disease. But the examples in this chapter and chapter 4 show that poisoning water was often deliberately intended to cause illness.

2 Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 3.107-24, curse 109. Frontinus, Stratagems 3.7.6. Polyaenus 6.13. Kirrha was also known as Krisa. Strabo 9.3.3-4 recounts the destruction of Kirrha and mentions the profusion of hellebore at Anticyra, but omits mention of the poison’s role in the city’s demise.

3 Pausanias 10.37. Ulrich’s find: Peter Levi’s note 259 in vol. 1 of the Penguin edition of Pausanias (1979). See also Plutarch, Solon 11. Slaughter of children and old people, and rape during the sack of Troy: Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy 13.78-324; Apollodorus,Epitome 5.21-23, and Frazer’s notes 1-2, pp 238-39. On Greek atrocities during the sack of Troy in ancient literature and art, see Gantz 1993, 2:650-57.

4 Thessalos, Presbeulicos is included in the corpus of Hippocratic texts cited by Grmek 1979, 146-48. Churchill and Iraq: Simons 1994, 179-81. Gas was prohibited by the 1899 Hague Convention, Howard et al., 7, 121, 123. Churchill’s willingness to use gas against the Germans in World War II is discussed by Harris and Paxman, 1982, chapter 5. The British used mustard gas against rebels in Afghanistan in 1919, praising its effectiveness on ignorant and unprotected tribesmen (43-44). Similar lethal effects of deploying a supposedly “nonlethal” gas indiscriminately during a hostage crisis in Moscow in 2002 resulted in more than one hundred deaths of the innocent hostages: see chapter 5.

5 Doctors were accused of propagating pestilence in the Middle Ages, and suspicions continued in early modern times: see Bercé 1993. Examples of Italian, American, French, and Japanese doctors involved in biological warfare are discussed by Lesho et al. 1998, 513; Robertson and Robertson 1995, 370 (Civil War). The army physician who rose to the rank of general in World War II, Dr. Shiro Ishii, is one of the most notorious medical war criminals of the modern era. As director of Japan’s extensive biological war effort, the doctor was responsible for many thousands of deaths from a vast array of biochemical agents in China and has been accused of creating “the most gruesome series of biological weapons experiments in history.” His staff included more than three thousand entomologists, botanists, and microbiologists, and fifty physicians. Harris and Paxman 1982; Robertson and Robertson 1995, 371; Christopher et al. 1997, 413; Williams and Wallace 1989. South African “doctors of death”: “The Science of Apartheid” 1998; Finnegan 2001.

6 The Geneva Convention resulted in the Geneva Protocol of 1925, prohibiting the use, but not the production, of biochemical agents. Harris and Paxman 1982, 45-48. Grmek 1979, 147, 141-42. Poupard and Miller 1992, 13 on 1925 Geneva Convention, “Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare.” Isocrates, Plataicus 14.31. Whitehead 1990, commentary on Aeneas the Tactician 8.4, p 115, cites the Athenian orator Aeschines, On the Embassy 2.115, on the vow by Delphi’s Amphictionic League never to totally destroy any league city or interfere with “flowing water.” See also Ober 1994, 12. “As old as the weapons themselves”: Lesho et al. 1998, 515. Laws of Manu 7.90, see Buhler 1886, 230, 247; see also Maskiell and Mayor 2001, 25.

7 Athenians fouling their own wells: Whitehead 1990, 115, commentary on Aeneas the Tactician 8.4, citing Francis and Vickers 1988. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.47-55; 3.87. Aeneas’s shocked British commentators: see Whitehead’s commentary, 1990, 115, citing Hunter and Handford. Iroquois: Wheelis 1999, 27. Historical and recent examples of poisoning wells: Christopher et al. 1997.

8 Frontinus, Stratagems 3.7.4-5. Diverting the Euphrates was attributed to Cyrus by Xenophon, Cyropaedia 7.5, and Polyaenus 7.6.5, 8.26 (Semiramis inscription). Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana, 1.25, credited Medea with the engineering feat. See Polyaenus 1.3.5. Lesho et al. 1998, 512. Causing massive flooding that indiscriminately killed noncombatants involved ethical issues for early Islamic scholars: Hashmi (forthcoming) cites “numerous records of flooding as a battlefield tactic by Muslim armies” and notes “the many instances in which it backfired against its perpetrator, sweeping away his own besieging troops along with his enemies.”

9 Frontinus, Stratagems 4.1.36. Florus 1.35.5-7. Tacitus Annals 3.1.59-68; 5.2.84. Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights 3.8. Virgil, Aeneid 9.770-74.

10 Penzer 1952, 3-5, citing Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Kautilya 1951, 432-433, 435, 441-45, 455-57. Date of Susruta Samhita, Majno 1991, 511 note 26.

11 On deadly, sulphurous exhalations from bodies of water or the earth: Pliny 2.207-208; 2.232 (deadly springs); 31.26 and 49; 35.174. See also Virgil, Aeneid 6.236-42, and Healy 1999, 246. Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe 6.738-79, 6.817-38. Foul odors and disease or poison: Poupard and Miller 1992, 10.

12 Strabo 8.3.19 (marsh poisoned by Hydra poison). Quintus of Smyrna, Fall of Troy 2.561-66. Empedocles and draining malarial marshes: Diogenes Laertius, Lives of the Philosophers 8.70; Grmek 1979, 159; Faraone 1992, 64. Thanks to Philip Thibodeau for pointing out Varro’s De Re Rustica 1.12.2. Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe 6.1091-1286. Livy 5.48; 25.26. Diodorus of Sicily 12.45.2-4; 14.70-71. Vegetius, On Military Matters.

13 Xenophon, Cyropaedia 1.6.15. Military disasters due to malarial swamps and the “strategic uses of insalubrious terrain”: Grmek 1979, 149-63, 151 (“particular measures”), citing Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War 6-7, esp. 7.47.1-2; Plutarch, Nicias; and Diodorus of Sicily 13-14. Grmek 149-50.

14 Frontinus, Stratagems 2.7.12. Plutarch, Moralia 202.4. Bradford 2001, 201. Pliny 25.20-21. Tacitus, Annals 3.1.58-70.

15 Grmek 149-50. Polyaenus 2.30. Robertson and Robertson 1995, 369.

16 Grmek 1979, 161-63, believes that the grim story of Clearchus is true, based on many historical accounts that were available to Polyaenus but are now lost. Saddam’s attack on Kurds: Simons 1994; Hashmi 2004. As the George W. Bush administration prepared to attack Iraq to destroy its stores of biochemical arms in 2002, reports emerged that suppliers in the United States had provided many of the raw materials for Iraq’s biological and chemical weapons program during the Reagan administration of the 1980s; those reports were confirmed in 2003. Some U.S. troops who destroyed Iraq’s biochemical munitions in the Gulf War of 1991 now suffer a cluster of health problems that stem in part from the very agents created by the United States and sent to Iraq. Acknowledging the age-old rebound problems for those involved with biochemical armaments, one U.S. senator critical of the attack on Iraq asked in 2002, “Are we now facing the possibility of reaping what we have sown?” Origins of Iraq’s bio-weaponry: CBS News, and New York Times, August 18, 2002; Kelley 2002; Shenon 2003. Controversial allegations of poisons used against political insurgencies in Ethiopia and Southeast Asia between 1975 and 1981 are discussed by Eitzen and Takafugi 1997, chapters 18 and 34; Lesho et al. 1998, 515; and Christopher et al. 1997, 415. South Africa: “Science of Apartheid” 1998; Finnegan 2001. Widely discussed examples of U.S. government bio-weapons and nuclear tests endangering American citizens during the Cold War have been documented. For example, the release of supposedly harmless pathogens in San Francisco Bay in 1950 caused an outbreak of infections with at least one fatality, and in 2002, the U.S. government acknowledged secret releases of bio-toxins and chemical agents (nerve agents and hallucinogens being developed as offensive weapons) aboard Navy ships, and in several U.S. locations in 1949-71. Lesho et al. 1998, 513-14; Christopher et al. 1997, 414; Aldinger 2002; “Sailors Sprayed with Nerve Gas in Test,” 2002. Japanese dissemination of cholera among the Chinese in 1941 resulted in about seventeen hundred fatalities of unprotected Japanese troops, besides the targeted ten thousand Chinese victims: Christopher et al. 1997, 413. Grmek 1979, 149-50.

Chapter 4

1 Today the word “plague” usually connotes bubonic or Black Plague, but in antiquity, “plague” was used for all epidemics. The Mongols (Tatars) at Kaffa: Wheelis 2002; Derbes 1966; Robertson and Robertson 1995, 370; Christopher et al. 1997, 412; Lesho et al. 1998, 512. Poupard and Miller 1992, 11. Hasdrubal: Livy 27.43-50. Hannibal catapulting vipers, see chapter 6.

2 Communicable disease mechanisms were established by Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, and other scientists in the nineteenth century, but disease transmission was observed and remarked upon very early in human history. Neufeld 1980, 32-34, discusses evidence for ancient intuitions about contagion. “Miasmas”: Livy 25.26. Cyzicus: Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.76; see also “Punic Wars” 73 for a similar corpse-borne plague that struck the Carthaginian army in 150 BC.

3 Livy 25.26 (“contact with the sick spread the disease”); Diodorus of Sicily 14.70.4-71.4 (“those who tended the sick were seized by the plague”). Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.47-55; 3.87. Zinsser 1963, 119-27; McNeill 1976, 105-6. Sophocles,Trachinian Women 555-1038 (lines 956, 1038 anthos, “pustulant efflorescence”). Cedrenus cited in Zinsser 1963, 138. Chinese awareness of fomites in clothing: Temple 1991, 215.

4 Cuneiform tablets about contagion, found in the archives of Mari: Sasson 2000, 1911-24 and personal correspondence, November 2002; also Neufeld 1980, 33. On early understanding of smallpox contagion, inoculation, quarantine, and long-term virulence of desiccated smallpox matter, see Fenn 2000, 1561, 1563-64; McNeill 1976, 253. On political assassinations by gifts of smallpox-infected clothing in Mughal India: Maskiell and Mayor 2001. Smallpox-infected blankets and missiles in early Colonial American military history: Fenn 2000, 1577-79; Poupard and Miller 1992, 11-13. See Mayor 1995b for a cross-cultural survey of disease-infected items as bio-weapons, such as smallpox blankets given to Native Americans, from antiquity to the present. Articles of clothing laced with nerve poisons absorbed through the skin were created to kill anti-apartheid activists, according to testimony before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, reported in “The Science of Apartheid” 1998; and in Finnegan 2001, 62.

5 Hittite plague rituals: Faraone 1992, 99, 109 notes 37-39; see also 41-42, 44, 47, 59-73.

6 On Hittite and Babylonian plague gods, Faraone 1992, 61, 120-21, 125-27, and see 128-32, esp. 130 on rodents bringing pestilence. On pestilence and warfare through history, Zinsser 1963, esp. 139, 141; 125-26 on the epidemic that struck the Carthaginians. See also McNeill 1976, 115-27.

7 Exodus 1 and 7-12, and New Oxford Annotated Bible 1973, commentary. Poisoning fish with chemicals: Pliny 25.98. Homer, Iliad 1.50-70. On intention to spread contagion, see Wheelis 1999, 9. Tetrahedron, a New Age-survivalist company based in Idaho, sells “Bible-recommended” essentials oils to protect against biological warfare, including one called Exodus II supposedly concocted by Moses “to protect the Israelites from plague” (see chapter 5, on attempts to immunize against bio-attack).

8 Army troops in Burma (Myanmar) carried out systematic rape as a “weapon of war” to crush ethnic rebellion: New York Times, December 27, 2002. In 1975, a U.S. military manual alluded to the theoretical possibility of developing ethnic biochemical weapons to selectively incapacitate or kill specific population groups by taking advantage of genetic knowledge, and in the 1980s, the Soviets repeatedly accused the United States, Israel, and South Africa of seeking to develop “ethnic weapons,” allegations denied by U.S. authorities as “preposterous [and] out of the question.” Wick 1988, 14-21. South Africa’s “Project Coast”: Finnegan 2001, 58, 61-63. The possibility of ethnic “genetic bombs” is discussed by Harris and Paxman 1982. According to “Nonlethal Weapons: Terms and References,” a recent report published by the U.S. Air Force Institute for National Security Studies, proposals are being considered for “genetic alteration” weapons that would create long-term birth defects over generations among enemy populations: reported in “When Killing Just Won’t Do” 2003.

9 “Pharaoh’s orders, see Exodus 1; Herod’s orders, see Matthew 2. Rose 1959, 234-35; Oxford Classical Dictionary s.v. “Sabini”; Polyaenus 8.3.1. Arthashastra: Bradford 2001, 127.

10 Man-made pestilence: Grmek 1997, 148-50. Seneca, On Anger 2.9.3; Livy 8.18; Orosius, Histories against the Pagans 3.10. Dio Cassius, Epitome 67.11 and 73.14. Panic induced by modern bio-terror fears in the United States: Meckler 2002. On plagues in antiquity, see Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. “plague”; and Faraone 1992, 128-32.

11 Kautilya 1951, 443-46. Mousepox virus is discussed in Preston’s Demon in the Freezer (2002). Synthetic virus discovery: “Do-It-Yourself Virus Recreated from Synthetic DNA,” Science News, July 13, 2002, 22; see also Newsweek July 22, 8. Microbiologists point out that the polio virus is a relatively simple virus. “It is still a formidable challenge to synthesize in vitro one of the more complicated viruses (such as the pox viruses).” Mark Wheelis, personal correspondence, February 4, 2003.

12 On cross-cultural ancient and modern legends about “bottling up” plague and releasing it against enemies, see Mayor 1995b and Maskiell and Mayor 2001. The Ark: 1 Samuel 4-7; 2 Samuel 6.6-7 (Uzzah). For further discussion of the Ark-related plague, see chapter 6.

13 Plague demons kept in the temple at Jerusalem, Testament of Solomon manuscripts and Testimony of Truth, Nag Hammadi library. Dating and text analysis, Johnston 2002 and James Harding and Loveday Alexander, Biblical Studies, University of Sheffield, “Dating the Testament of Solomon,” May 28, 1999. Conybeare 1898. Quotes from Bonner 1956, 5-6. (Faraone 1992, 72 note 84, cited Bonner, but mistook Solomon for Samuel and Babylonians for Assyrians.) Bashiruddin Mehmood was accused in 2001 of ties to Islamic terrorists, after plans for anthrax balloons were found in the offices of an organization he headed in Afghanistan: reported in the New York Times, November 28, 2001. Islamic scientists on the legend of Solomon: Aftergood 2001, citing a Wall Street Journalarticle on “Islamic Science,” September 13, 1988, and Islam and Science (1991) by Pakistani physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy. The plague during Titus’s reign (AD 79-81) occurred about nine years after he destroyed the temple, according to Suetonius, Titus.

14 Faraone 1992, 61-64. The two ancient sources for the great plague of AD 165-80, sometimes called the Plague of Antoninus, are the biography of Lucius Verus, by “Julius Capitolinus” in Lives of the Later Caesars (Historia Augusta) 7-8; and Ammianus Marcellinus, 23.6.24. Zinsser 1963, 135-37. McNeill 1976, 116-17.

15 Diodorus of Sicily 14.70.4. Appian, “Illyrian Wars” 4. Hamaxitus: Strabo 13.1.48-49. Aelian, On Animals 12.5; 4.40; 9.15; 10.49; 12.20; 14.20. Faraone 1992, 61-62. “Cures” for rabies are given by Pliny 29.98-102. Kautilya 1951, 444. Rabies “bombs”: Robertson and Robertson 1995, 370. The Polish general was Casimir Siemenowicz, author of The Grand Art d’Artillerie (1650): see Lesho et al. 1998, 512-13; Partington 1999, 168. In about 1500, Leonardo da Vinci envisioned a bomb made from mad-dog saliva, tarantula venom, toxic toads, sulphur, arsenic, and burnt feathers. Temple 1991, 218. On the long viability of smallpox matter and aerosols: Lesho et al. 1998, 512. On archaeologists’ concerns that smallpox could be accidentally released during excavations of ancient sites, see Fenn 2000, 1558 note 9.

16 Harris 1995. Catapults: See Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. “artillery.” Greek Fire stored in Byzantine churches: Partington 1999, 25 and note 218. Myra: Forbes 1964, 19.

17 Quotes from Faraone 1992, 63, 65, 66 (Hercules can only offer defensive aid to armies). The temple at Chryse was dedicated to Apollo the god of pestilential mice, notorious carriers of disease, and it was not far from the temple of Apollo at Hamaxitus, which actually kept hordes of mice. In a striking coincidence in the ancient history of biological warfare, Chryse was also the name of the desert island where Philoctetes suffered a poison-arrow wound.

18 Partington 1999, 21 and note 191. Louis XIV, Hitler, Nixon, treaties: Robertson and Robertson 1995, 369, 371, 372. Christopher et al. 1997, 413-16. Lesho et al. 1998, 513-15. Many military scientists use the circular logic that biochemical weapons must first be invented so that they can prepare countermeasures. Harris and Paxman 1982, chapter 3, esp 42. In 1956, the United States “changed its policy of ‘defensive use only’ to include possible deployment of biological weapons in situations other than retaliation”: Poupard and Miller 1992, 14-15. On last-resort strategies and extremities of war, see Nardin 1996, 28-29, 86-88, 133.

19 Booby-trapped chests: Partington 1999, 170. Modern examples: Robertson and Robertson 1995, 371; Christopher et al. 1997, 413-14; Lesho et al. 1998, 513. Ishii’s chronic illness: Harris and Paxman 1982, 75-79. In 1971, a smallpox outbreak in Aralsk, Kazakhstan, may have resulted from the release of a strain of weaponized smallpox tested on an island in the Aral Sea, an island that is contaminated by anthrax and other germ weaponry buried by the Soviet military. Miller 2002b. Faraone 1992, 66, 120-21.

20 Poison Maidens: Penzer 1952, 3, 12-71. Poison Sultan: Maskiell and Mayor 2001, 165. Fears of “smallpox martyrs,” infected individuals who could be dispatched by terrorists to spread contagion, rose in 2002: New York Times Magazine, December 15, 2002, 122. Grafton 1995, 181.

Chapter 5

1 Xenophon, Anabasis 2.5; 4.8. Diodorus of Sicily 14.26-30. Pliny 21.74-78 (on poison honey); see 25.37 on antidotes from poisons. On toxic honey in antiquity and modern times, see Mayor 1995a. Interview with T. C., February 1986. Ambrose 1974, 34.

2 Pliny 25.5-7. Agari snake-venom doctors: Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.88. Mithridates’ animal bodyguard: Aelian, On Animals 7.46. Laws of Manu 7.218, see Buhler 1886, 251. Knowledge of Indian medicine in the Roman era, see Majno 1991, 374-78.

3 Celsus, a physician during the reign of Tiberius, listed thirty-six theriac ingredients. Majno 1991, 414-17.

4 Julius Capitolinus, Lives of the Later Caesars, Marcus Antoninus 15.3. Kautilya 1951, 443, 455-57. Saddam seeks antidote for nerve gas: Miller 2002a. One of Tetrahedron’s “Essential Oils for Biological Warfare Preparedness” was allegedly “used by Moses to protect the Israelites from plague.” The oil contains cinnamon, cassia, calamus, myrrh, hyssop, frankincense, spikenard, and galbanum in olive oil: The existence of Gulf War Syndrome, a cluster of physical and psychological symptoms, has not been acknowledged by the U.S. government. The syndrome has been attributed in part to the vaccinations and in part to poisoning that occurred when U.S. troops destroyed chemical and biological munitions in Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991. Sarah Edmonds, “Grisly U.S. Crimes Raise Questions on Gulf War Illness,” Reuters, Washington, DC, November 15, 2002. Germans and typhus: Christopher et al. 1997, 413. Marcus Aurelius: Majno 1991, 414-15.

5 Pliny 25.5-7, 37, and 62-65; 29.24-26. Mithridates: Dio Cassius 36-37; Appian “Mithridatic Wars” 12; Strabo 12.3.30-31.

6 Pompey: Strabo 12.3.18. Mayor 1995a.

7 Aelian On Animals 5.29. Aeneas the Tactician 16.5-7. Kautilya 1951, 441. Hannibalic wars: Bradford 2001, 178-89. Frontinus, Stratagems 2.5.13-14, and 23.

8 Dio Cassius, Epitome 67.5.6.

9 Polyaenus 1.1.1; 1.1 and 1.3; 1.preface.1-3; 8.25.1.

10 Polyaenus 8.28; 31.18. Herodotus 1.199-216. Strabo’s version, 11.8.4-6, substituted another Scythian tribe, the Sacae (neighbors of the Massagetae) as the victims.

11 Polyaenus 5.10.1; 8.23.1. See Oxford Classical Dictionary s.v. “Himilco.” Mandrake: Pliny 25.147-50. Frontinus, Stratagems 2.5.12. A Theopompus fragment and Polyaenus 7.42 recounted the Celts’ plan.

12 Leprosy wine: Grmek 1979, 147. Anthrax candy: Lesho et al. 1998, 513; and on Ishii see Harris and Paxman 1982, 75-79. “Science of Apartheid” 1998, 19, 24; Finnegan 2001. See Poupard and Miller 1992, 13, and Eitzen and Takfuji 1997, on the Nazis allegedly distributing infected toys and candy in Romania.

13 “Magical” biological and chemical weaponry was devised by “harnessing natural forces” in ancient India: Kokatnur 1948, 270. In modern times, the scientists who develop biological and chemical weapons usually work in secrecy, and their names are rarely publicized.

14 Polyaenus, Stratagems 8.43. See Faraone 1992, 99, sighting Burkert 1972, 59-65, 73-75, on “aggressive use of pharmaka in war.” Faraone and Burkert both relate the Chrysame story to the ancient Hittite practice of sending poisoned or contagious animals toward the enemy. On modern strategies of poisoning enemy livestock in World War I, see Christopher et al. 1997, 413; Robertson and Robertson 1995, 370.

15 Quotes from Susan Levine, Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate (JNLWD) research director, in Navy News and Undersea Technology, May 10, 1999; Col. George Fenton, director of JNLWD, in New Scientist, December 16, 2000; New York Times editorial, October 30, 2002, respectively. Ancient Indian recipes for calmatives and disorienting agents were delivered by hollow darts: Kokatnur 1948, 269.

16 Information on modern calmative and other nonlethal weapons: Sunshine Project,; and the Federation of American Scientists position papers and links at; see also “When Killing Just Won’t Do” 2003; Broad 2002. The JNLWD has a Web site: Hallucinogen BZ records were declassified in October 2002: “Some Soldiers in Chemical Tests Not Fully Informed” 2002. Hitler: Moon 2000, 95 (thanks to Flora Davis). Polyaenus 7.6.4 recounts an ancient tactic by the Persians to “feminize” their enemies, the Lydians.

17 The gas used by the Russians in 2002 was identified as an aerosol version of the anaesthetic Fentanyl. After that event, a spokesman for the JNLWD “denied that it was conducting research on nonlethal chemical weapons,” despite the JNLWD’s publicized 2002 budget of $1.6 million to develop such weapons: New York Times, October 28-31 and Broad 2002. Eumenes quoted by Justin 14.1.12, cited in Penzer 1952, 6. On Hannibal’s plan to catapult snakes, see chapter 6.

Chapter 6

1 Herodotus 2.141. The Egyptian god Ptah was recognized in Greece as Hephaestus, god of invention and fire. Bad omens of mice eating leather military gear: Pliny 8.221-23. Faraone 1992, 42-43, 65-66, 128-31. 2 Kings 19.35. Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 10.15-27. Bradford 2001, 44. Zinsser 1963, 194, believes that the rodents that attacked the Assyrians were rats rather than field mice. The pestilence that struck the Assyrians was the subject of a famous poem by Lord Byron, “The Destruction of Sennacherib,” 1815.

2 When “mice” are mentioned in ancient texts, “rats” may be meant: Zinsser 1963, 190-91; and see his chapter 11 on rats and mice. Apollo’s cult of pestilential mice and the temple of Hamaxitus with white mice: Aelian, On Animals 12.5; Polemon of Troy (190 BC) fragment, cited in Faraone 1992, 128. Faraone, 41-42 (“faulty reasoning”) “hemorrhoids” theory, 50 note 39, 128-31. Strabo 13.1.46-48; 3.4.18. 1 Samuel 5-6. Commentary in the Oxford Annotated Bible identifies the Philistine pestilence as bubonic plague. The plague appeared in each Philistine town visited by the Ark, raising the question of fomites or insect vectors associated with the sacred chest: see chapter 4. Rats in “countless hordes” were a periodic plague in northern Iran and Babylon: Aelian, On Animals 17.17.

3 Neufeld 1980, 30-31. Ambrose 1974, 33-34. Aelian, On Animals 17.35. “Some authorities state that 27 hornet stings will kill a human being,” wrote Pliny 11.73. Maya: Popul Vuh, lines 6800ff. Mayor 1995a, 36.

4 Neufeld 1980, 30-39, 43-46, 55. Exodus 23.28, Deuteronomy 7.20, Joshua 24.12, Isaiah 7.18-20. On the many species of venomous insects in the Near East, see Neufeld 51-52.

5 Ambrose 1974. Development of weapons based on marking enemies with pheromones to induce attack by bees: “When Killing Just Won’t Do” 2003.

6 Neufeld 1980, 54-56. Harris and Paxman 1982, 49-50. Mayor 1995a, 36. Aeneas the Tactician 37.4; Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.78.

7 Japanese flea bombs: Lesho 1998, 513; Christopher et al. 1997, 413; Robertson and Robertson 1995, 371; Lockwood 1987, 77. Kahn 2002.

8 The defense of Hatra: Herodian 3.9.3-8 and commentary by C. Whittaker. The Hatra debacle is also described by Dio Cassius 68.31-, Epitome 75.10-13 and 76.10-12. Ammianus Marcellinus 25.8.2-6 visited the abandoned city of Hatra in AD 363, and described the desert as a “wretched” wilderness with no water and few plants. Scorpions: Pliny 11.87-91; 27.6. Aelian On Animals 6.20, 6.23, 8.13, 9.4, 9.27, 10.23, 15.26, 17.40 (a plague of scorpions in the Mideast). Strabo 15.1.37. Leo, Tactica 19.53, cited in Partington 1999, 18 and note 174. Scorpions in antiquity, see Scarborough 1979, 9-18; on winged scorpions, 14-15 and notes 146, 147, and 170. Assassin bugs: Ambrose 1974, 36. Thanks to entomologist Robert Peterson for information about assassin bugs. See Campbell 1986, “What Happened at Hatra?” for scholarly opinions on the puzzle of Severus’s defeat.

9 Assassin or cone-nose bug in Vietnam: Ambrose 1974, 38. On the history of U.S. research and production of offensive insect weapons see Lockwood 1987, 78-82. The “Controlled Biological Systems” project to create sophisticated weapon technologies based on entomology and zoology is overseen by the Defense Sciences Office (DSO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA): Remote-controlled rats were created by SUNY scientists funded by the Defense Department. New York Times Magazine, December 15, 2002, 116; and Meek 2002, citing Nature, May 2, 2002. Revkin 2002.

10 Cornelius Nepos, Hannibal 23.10-11; see also Justinius 32.4.6-8; Orosius 4.20; and Frontinus, Stratagems 4.7.10-11 who says the trick was played by Hannibal and again by Prusius, King of Bithynia. Neufeld 1980, 54-55.

11 Greek Alexander Romance, Stoneman 1991, 101. Polyaenus 15.6, 7.9.

12 Aeneas the Tactician 22.14, 22.20, 23.2, 38.2-3; and Whitehead’s commentary pp 156-57. Aelian, On Animals 7.38. Pliny 8.142-43. Polyaenus 7.2. Ambrose 1974, 33. Dolphins: PBS Frontline Report, “A Whale of a Business,” 1997. Sea lions: Williams 2003.

13 On elephants in antiquity: Scullard 1974. Livy 27.46-49; Ammianus Marcellinus 25.1.4. At Alexander’s defeat of King Darius in 331 BC at Gaugamela, there were fifteen war elephants in the Persian forces. Alexander versus Porus: Quintus Curtius 8.13-14. Zonarus 8.3. Stoneman 1991, 129-30. Caesar’s elephant: Polyaenus 8.23.5. Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe 5.1298-1349. Aelian, On Animals 8.15; 8.17. Pliny 8.68.

14 Herodotus 1.80-82; 4.130-36. Polyaenus 7.6.6; Frontinus Stratagems 2.4.12. Aelian, On Animals 11.36 (he confused Lydians with Persians). Polyaenus 4.21. Zoological tricks help clarify the difference between acceptable biologically based ruses of war, like creating shields against enemy cavalry with ranks of evil-smelling camels, and more reprehensible deployments of bio-toxins against human soldiers. The imaginative range of ancient low-tech animal strategies make one wonder what sorts of counterploys will be developed to subvert the high-technology biodefenses using insects and animals being created today.

15 Aelian, On Animals 1.38; 16.14; 16.36. Alexander legend: Stoneman 1994, 11-12. Pliny 8.27 notes that elephants are scared by pigs’ squeals, and when elephants are frightened or wounded they always give ground. Tacitus, Germania 3. Ancient Indian methods of producing disorienting aural and optical effects: Kokatnur 1948, 269. Modern aural, optical illusion, and odor weapons: Sunshine Project; and “When Killing Just Won’t Do” 2003.

16 On flammable pitch and resin from trees and tar from crude petroleum deposits in the ancient world, see references cited in Whitehead’s commentary at Aeneas the Tactician 11.3, p 129; and Forbes 1964. Procopius, History of the Wars 8.14.30-43.

17 Frontinus, Stratagems 2.4.17. Partington 1999, 46, 210. Kautilya 1951, 433-34. Morgan 1990, chapter 2. Monkeys: reported in the Washington Times (UPI), March 24, and the World Tribune, April 8, 2003, citing Al Usbua Al Sisyassi magazine, Rabat, Morocco. Jennison 1971, 38. Folklore motifs for burning animals: J2101.1; K2351.1 in the Motif-Index of Folk-Literature. The Tamerlane (Timur) legend comes from the University of Calgary Applied History Research Group, “Islamic World to 1600,” copyright 1998.

Chapter 7

1 Medea’s deadly gift to Glauke was described in Euripides’ tragedy Medea (431 BC): the burning scene (1136ff) takes place offstage but is vividly described by horrified eyewitnesses. The story of Medea’s fire weapon was retold in numerous versions by Greek and Latin authors, see for example Diodorus of Sicily 4.54; Apollodorus, Library 1.9.28. The princess in the burning gown was a favorite subject in vase paintings and sculpture. The fountain where Glauke sought relief was a landmark in antiquity and is still pointed out to tourists in ancient Corinth. Mayor 1997b.

2 Crosby 2002, 87-88. Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe 5.1243-46; and 5.1284-86. Partington 1999, 1, and 211 (Laws of Manu). SIPRI, Incendiary Weapons 1975, 15. According to Kokatnur 1948, 268-70, “chemical warfare or something similar thereto is strongly suggested” in the oral Indian epics of 2000-650 BC, written down in about the first century AD. Sun Tzu: Bradford 2001, 134-36. Temple 1991, 215-18.

3 Herodotus 8.51-53. Crosby 2002, 88. On early methods of distilling wood pitch, discussed by Pliny, Dioscorides, and Arabic sources, Forbes 1964, 33-36, 38-39; Partington 1999, 4; on the last uses of blazing arrows, 5.

4 Crosby 2002, 88. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 2.75-78. Sulphur and pitch: Healy 1999, 248-49, 257; Pliny 35.174-77; 16.52. On sulphur fires in sieges in Roman times, see Healy, 249 notes 228-29, citing Martial, Epigrams 1.41.4 and 42; 12.57.14. Aeneas the Tactician 33.1-3; 35.1. Rhodes: Diodorus of Sicily 20.48, 86-88, 96-97. Tacitus, Histories 4.23. Silius Italicus, Punica 1.345-67 (Hannibal). Vegetius 4.1-8, 18. Herodian 8.4. Ammianus Marcellinus 23.4, 14-15. See Partington 1999, 2-3. On petroleum weapons in antiquity, see Forbes 1964, chapter 7.

5 See Temple 1991, 217-18, 224-29, 232-37, 241-48, for Chinese discoveries and military uses of saltpeter and gunpowder. On the experimental weapons leading to the development of gunpowder guns and bombs in China and India, see Crosby 2002, 93-129; quotes on 98. James Riddick Partington 1999 is the authority on the early discoveries and formulas for Greek Fire and gunpowder. His work, originally published in 1960, is updated in the Introduction to the 1999 edition, see esp. xxi-xxiii. Poisons added to Chinese incendiaries: Partington 270-71; Temple 216-18. Indian fire projectiles: Kokatnur 1948, 269.

6 Lucan, Civil War 3.680-96; 10.486-505. Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 7.53. Frontinus, Stratagems 4.7.9. and 14. Arrian, Alexander 2.19. Quintus Curtius 4.2.23-4.3.7. Partington 1999, 1.

7 Diodorus of Sicily 17.44-45. Quintus Curtius 4.3.25-26. SIPRI, Incendiary Weapons 1975, 150-51.

8 Dio Cassius, fragments of book 15 preserved by John Zonaras, Epitome 9.4; and John Tzetses, Book of Histories 2.109-28. Plutarch, Marcellus. Partington 1999, 5 and note 56. Modern experiments with Archimedes’ invention: see Applied Optics special issue 1976. Capture or immunity for enemy scientists: After World War II, German nuclear scientist Wernher von Braun was given asylum in the United States, and Dr. Ishii of Japan was granted immunity in exchange for his records of bioweapons experiments. Poupard and Miller 1992, 16 (on the U.S. coverup of Japan’s bio-weapons). In 2002, the U.S. government suggested a plan to “identify key Iraqi weapons scientists and spirit them out of the country” in exchange for information about Saddam Hussein’s biochemical arsenals. New York Times, December 6, 2002.

9 Laser guns were allegedly used during the U.S. military’s Operation Just Cause according to “Panama Deception,” the Academy Award- winning documentary film directed by Barbara Trent, 1992. Colonel Fenton described the microwave gun on NPR, Morning Edition, March 2, 2001, “New Crowd-Control Weapon that the Pentagon Is Developing.”

10 Catapults: Crosby 2002, 81-87; Oxford Classical Dictionary, s.v. “artillery.” Spartan flame-hrower: Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War 4.100; Crosby 2002, 89. On Chinese flamethrowers, see Temple 1991, 229-31. On modern flamethrowers, SIPRI,Incendiary Weapons 1975, 106-11.

11 Apollodorus, Poliorcetica cited by Partington 1999, 2, and see 199 for later medieval recipes for burning stone castles combining vinegar, sulphur, naphtha, and the urine of children (urine contains combustible phosphates). Pliny 23.57; 33.71 and 94. Livy 21.37, and skeptical commentary by the translator B. O. Foster. Juvenal 10.153. Dio Cassius 36.18 reported that vinegar poured repeatedly to saturate a large brick tower weakened it and made it brittle enough to shatter. Vitruvius 8.3.1 noted that fire and vinegar dissolved flint rock. Modern vinegar experiments: Healy 1999, 131-33.

12 Aeneas the Tactician 33-35, and Whitehead’s commentary pp. 197-98. Partington 1999, 5, 201. For fire-extinguishing methods in practice, see Diodorus of Sicily 13.85.5; 14.51.2-3; 14.108.4. Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.74. Polyaneus 6.3.3; excerpts 56.3.6. The “powers of vinegar”: Pliny 23.54-57.

13 Aeneas the Tactician 37.3. China: Temple 1991, 215-17 (fumigants and poison gases for military use). Croddy 2002, 127, citing Joseph Needham’s encyclopedic Science and Civilisation in China. Croddy claims that Thucydides reported arsenic smoke used by the Spartans, but there is no mention of arsenic by Thucydides. Neufeld 1980, 38 and note 26. Creveld 1991, 25, on smoke in tunnels. Plutarch, Sertorius. Rahman 2002. Kautilya 1951, 434, 441-45, 457. Polybius 21.28.11-17. Polyaenus 5.10.4-5; 6.17. Partington 1999, 18 (quicklime dust); 149 (weasels and magnets); 171 and note 154 (Dura-Europos); 209-11 (Arthashastra); 263, 284-85 (poison smokes in China and the New World). Islamic smoke weapons: Hashmi forthcoming. Chemical smoke from burning sulphur or arsenic was used as pesticide in antiquity (against lice, mites, fleas, wasps, etc) by the Egyptians, Sumerians, and Chinese (2500-1200 BC), and burning sulphur and tar was used to repel insects in ancient Greece and Rome, according to Homer and Cato (thanks to Anne Neumann for the idea of looking into the history of pesticides). Ancient Chinese fumigation techniques led to military uses of poison gases: Temple 1991, 215.

14 See Forbes 1964, 96 on pyr automaton. On ancient knowledge of these chemicals, Bailey 1929-32, 1.111, 199, 209-10, 244-45; 2.121, 251-56, 272-77. See Mayor 1997b on combustible formulas in myth and history. Livy 39.13. Some date the recipe in the compilation attributed to Africanus to the sixth century AD. Partington 1999, 6-10. Seneca, Medea 817-34. See also Rose 1959, 204. 1 Kings 18.23-38. Pliny 2.235-36; 35.178-82; 36.174.

15 The Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, by Associated Press photographer Nick Ut, was taken in 1972 at Trang Bang, Vietnam. The full story is told in Chong 2000. Napalm (naphthene thickened with palmitate) canisters were ignited by superhot white phosphorus. On napalm’s invention and its various formulas and uses from World War II through the 1970s, see SIPRI, Incendiary Weapons 1975, 39-67, 91-97, 122-55 (effects of chemical burns); Perry 2001; Taylor 2001.

16 On geography of petroleum, see Partington 1999, 3-5. For classifications, definitions, and locations of bituminous petroleum surface deposits in the ancient world, see Forbes 1964, who also surveys ancient references to petroleum and archaeological evidence for its uses.

17 Forbes 1964, see 91 for Assyrian criminals punished with hot petroleum, and 29, 40-41 for oil deposits in India. Baba Gurgur: Bilkadi 1995, 25. Nehemiah: 2 Maccabees 1.19-30. Partington 1999, 6.

18 Herodotus 6.119. Ctesias quoted by Aelian, On Animals 5.3. Philostratus, Apollonius of Tyana 3.1.

19 Strabo 16.1.4 and 15 described fountains of burning naphtha and other forms of petroleum in Babylon, and Alexander’s experiment, which was also reported by Plutarch, Alexander 35. Forbes 1964, 23-28; Classical scholar David Sansone 1980 sees Plutarch’s narrative of the dangerous experiment with naphtha as an extended metaphorical commentary on Alexander’s “fiery temperament.” Incendiary missile at Gandhara from Taj Ali et al., “Fire from Heaven? Small Find no. 1513 and Southern Asia’s Oldest Incendiary Missile,” unpublished paper, Dept. of Archaeology, University of Peshawar, Pakistan, September1999. Arthashastra: Partington 1999, 209-11. Kautilya 1951, 434. Shukra’s Nitishastra also describes incendiary balls flung at foes in ancient India: Kokatnur 1948, 269.

20 Ammianus Marcellinus 23.6.15. Dio Cassius, Epitome 76.10-12. Naphtha’s ability to combust air, burn in water, and pursue fleeing victims: Pliny 2.235-41.

21 On burn injuries and smoke inhalation from fire weapons, see SIPRI, Incendiary Weapons 1975, chapter 3, and 187-99.

22 Arab legends of Alexander’s inventions of incendiaries: Partington 1999, 47, 58, 198, 200-201; on petroleum weapons in India, 209-11. Illustration of the “Naphtha wall,” Shahnama, Iran, 1330s, Arthur Sackler Gallery, S1986, 104, Smithsonian, Washington DC.

23 Thaqif: Hashmi forthcoming. Bilkadi 1995, 23-27. Partington 1999, 189-227. Asbestos was known to Pliny 36.139: “Asbestos looks like alum and is completely fireproof.” Ancient Persians imported from India a “stone wool,” magic cloth cleansed by fire, used for magic tricks. Asbestos in war: Forbes 1964, 100; see also Partington 1999, 22, 201, 207 and Fig. 11 (burning riders in Islamic armies). Iraq: Miller and Vieth 2003. According to Crosby 2002, 91, the Mongols used trebuchets to hurl naphtha bombs.

24 Partington 1999, 24-25, 28-32, 45. Kautilya 1951, 434. Accidental explosions of Greek Fire mixtures: Forbes 1964, 96, citing Leo’s military handbook of the ninth century AD. Crosby 2002, 89, 96-97. SIPRI, Incendiary Weapons 1975, 91, 106-7. Mecca: Bilkadi 1995, and see Nardin 1996, 164-65 on the Koran’s ban on fighting near the Ka’aba, 2.191. Chinese warnings and naval disaster: Temple 1991, 228, 230; and see Croddy 2002, 130, quoting historian Shi Xubai, cited by Needham. In the thirteenth century AD, the Chinese defended against specially trained “naphtha troops” of the Mongol Hulagu Khan, Kublai Khan’s predecessor, by covering dwellings with roof mats of grass coated with clay.

25 Crosby 2002, 89-92, quote 92.

26 Petroleum weapons: Forbes 1964, 33-41, 99-100; Byzantine hand-syringes for squirting Greek Fire, 96 and figs. See Partington 1999, 21 and 26; 10-41, 44; for modern chemists’ reconstruction of Greek Fire, see Bert Hall’s Introduction, xxi-xxiii. See also Roland 1990, for a clear and concise history of Greek Fire; quotes 18; and see diagram on 19 for a reconstruction of the Greek Fire system. For the development of Muslim oil weapons, see Bilkadi 1995. On early medieval Muslim-Asian exchange of naphtha weapon knowledge, Croddy 2002, 128-30. According to Healy 1999, 121, Pliny anticipated the basis for process of modern fractional distillation, in Natural History 31.81. On the question of whether Pliny described saltpeter, see Healy 134, 198-99; and Partington 298-306. The first military use of gunpowder was linked (as the ignition source) to Greek Fire deployed by Chinese warships in about AD 900. Croddy 2002, 129, citing the Chinese Gunpowder Epic. The Byzantine historian Theophanes wrote that enemies “shivered in terror, recognizing how strong the liquid fire was.” Crosby 2002, 90. Forbes 1964, 98 for capitulation to Greek Fire: a Russian fleet of one thousand ships retreated from fifteen Byzantine ships carrying Greek Fire in AD 941.

27 Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.18-23. Dio Cassius 36.4-6; and Xiphilinus 36.1b. Croddy 2002, 128.

28 Dio Cassius 36.4-6. Pliny 2.235. Muhammad at Ta’fiq: Hashmi forthcoming. The strategic open oil pits near Hatra, Samosata, and Tigranocerta were guarded by early Muslim “oil czars,” see Bilkadi 1995, 25. The ruins of Samosata (Samsat, Turkey), the ancient capital of Commagene, were inundated in the late twentieth century by the Ataturk Dam. These rich petroleum fields now produce tens of thousands of barrels of oil in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey.

29 Dio Cassius, Xiphilinus 36.1b. Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.77. Pliny 2.235; 34.93; see also 35.178-82. The ancient statue of Hercules in the tunic has not survived. Ironically, in the second century BC, before Roman armies had experienced attacks by fiery naphtha, Roman soldiers desecrated the famous painting of Hercules dying in the poison robe, painted in 360 BC by the Greek artist Aristeides. During their sack of Corinth, it was among the fine paintings that the soldiers pulled to the ground and used to throw dice on. Strabo 8.6.23.

30 Plutarch, Lucullus. Mayor 1997b, 58. Seneca, Epistle 14.4-6. Martial, Epigrams 4.86, 10.25. Juvenal 1.155, 8.235 and notes. Coleman 1990, 60-61.


1 Lucretius, On the Nature of the Universe 5.1295-1308. Appian, “Mithridatic Wars” 12.74. Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea: “Poisoned Island” 1999; Pala 2003. On worst-case scenarios posed by biochemical weapons, see Miller et al. 2001. Numerous incidents of bio-weapon accidents between 1915-46 are given in Harris and Paxman 1982, 15-19, 28, 42, 56-57, 77-79. For a survey of U.S. bio-weapons accidents up to 2003, see Piller 2003. Thanks to Flora Davis for helpful comments.

2 Incinerating and burying biochemical weapons: Leary 2002; Wald 2002. Vitrification of nuclear weapons material is carried out at Savannah River, South Carolina. Burial of transuranic (high-level radioactive) materials from nuclear weapons in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad began in 1999. Early boreholes in the salt beds were rejected because of fears of potential leakage due to geologic deformations and pressurized brine, but the present site is said to have been “stable for more than 200 million years,” so the weapon materials are deemed to be safely stored forever. WIPP Web site: Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management information on Yucca Mountain:

3 Pala 2003. Denver: “Nerve Gas” 2000. The U.S. Geological Service determined that leakage of toxic fluids from chemical weapons buried in deep wells at Rocky Mountain Arsenal reduced friction and allowed slippage along fault planes, resulting in earthquakes. Thanks to Will Keener, Sandia National Laboratories, personal correspondence, February 10-14, 2003, for facts and helpful comments about Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the Carlsbad WIPP and Yucca Mountain sites. Washington, DC and other chemical munitions dump sites: Tucker 2001. Presidio: “Vile Finds” 2003.

4 The plans for Yucca Mountain primarily anticipate burial of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors, with the possibility of including nuclear weapons materials. The suggestions of the expert panels were solicited beginning in 1993 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Sandia National Laboratories in the planning for the Carlsbad weapons burial site, but the concepts, updated with the latest technologies, would also be applied at Yucca Mountain and similar sites. Pollon 2002; Hutchinson 2002; Pethokoukis 2002. Anthropologist Ward Goodenough quoted in Forest 2002. Detailed DOE information on proposals for warning succeeding generations ten thousand years into the future, based on Trauth et al. 1993, was provided by Steve Casey, WIPP Carlsbad Field Office, February 12, 2003.

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