21 January 2009

Chemical Warfare ancient style?

Think of chemical warfare and like me you would probably think of the use of chlorine or mustard gas on the Western front during WWI, or perhaps Saddam’s murder of Kurds in Halabja at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. According to a BBC report, however, a researcher claims to have found evidence that the Persian Empire used poisonous gases on the Roman city of Dura, Eastern Syria, in the 3rd Century AD.

The theory is based on the discovery of remains of about 20 Roman soldiers found at the base of the city wall. A study shows that the Persians dug a mine underneath the wall in order to enter the city. They then ignited bitumen and sulphur crystals to produce dense poisonous gases, possibly using underground bellows or chimneys probably to help generate and distribute the fumes.

"For the Persians to kill 20 men in a space less than 2m high or wide, and about 11m long, required superhuman combat powers - or something more insidious," said Simon James of the University of Leicester "The Roman assault party was unconscious in seconds, dead in minutes. It is clear from the archaeological evidence at Dura that the Sasanian Persians were as knowledgeable in siege warfare as the Romans,"

Although the mine failed to destroy the structures, the attackers eventually conquered the city. Dura was later abandoned, and its inhabitants were slaughtered or deported to Persia.

9 comments:

Nevin said...

I read about this particular information a few days ago in the printed version of BBC... Isn't it interesting how humans repeat and repeat the same thing over and over again....

We like to think that we are evolving forward but in fact, we have been stuck in the same human tragedy of pain and suffering for centuries...

Such as life :(

Sean Jeating said...

Yes, yes, one ought not to underestimate the skills of our ancestors in those good old times.
And how nicely Mr. Jones put it: 'superhuman combat powers'.

Liz said...

Gosh, so man has been coming up with horrible ways to kill others as long as there has been man nearly.

jmb said...

What ghastly piece of research. But it just goes to show that there is not much new under the sun in human behaviour.

Kay Dennison said...

Man's inhumanity to man has always been with us. Sigh

jams o donnell said...

Hell goes round and round, sadly. There is nothing new under the sun, the only difference being our increased ability to slaughter each other.

Welcome to teh Poor Mouth Nevin

Roland Dodds said...

Fascinating stuff. It’s good to know our ancient ancestors had the same desire to eradicate the lot of us as we do (I suppose......).

James Higham said...

The thing is that it's so easy to do for a country to wage chemical warfare. If they have little compunction, well, that's that then.

jams o donnell said...

Or that we hve hardly budged for all our learning Roland!

Sadly so James