Fighting dirty isn’t just a 20th century invention. Ever since humans have engaged in war, there has always been the quest to find the most efficient way to kill as many of their enemy as possible. Chemical and biological weapons are, unfortunately, the best ways to do that. Early conquerors knew this far too well. Here are some of the interesting forms chemical and biological weapons used by early combatants.
A chemical weapon developed in 672BC by the Byzantine Empire, kind of like an ancient form of Napalm, Greek Fire was used mostly in navel battles as it could still burn while floating on top of the water. Historians still differ on what exactly Greek Fire was made from, but suffice to say a burning ocean was a very intimidating sight for any attacking Navy.
Poison the Well
During the Peloponnesian War, it was said that the Spartans poisoned the drinking water of Athens with what some believe was Ebola. Though Ebola was not actually documented in humans until much later, the disease brought about by drinking from the well was described as a swift-moving fever that caused severe bleeding.
Carthaginian military commander Hannibal was a well-known tactician. In 190BC, he devised a naval tactic which involved clay pots filled with highly poisonous snakes which his men would launch at enemy ships. When the clay pots hit the opposing ships decks, they would release their venomous cargo. This likely caused at least one enemy sailor to comment on how fatigued he was at the sight of all these “mother fucking snakes on this mother fucking boat”.
Flying Plague Bodies
This tactic was most notably used during the 14th century siege of Kaffa by the Tartar army. The Tartars loaded catapults with the bodies of those who had been killed by the bubonic plague. Once the bodies were hurled over the wall and landed on the enemies men, the disease would spread quickly, weakening the city’s defenses. The Tartars would eventually flee the city, but not before bringing the plague to Europe where it devastated most of the population.
Some archers during the Middle Ages were known to dip their arrows into fetid dirt or even straight fecal matter, the hope being that the wounds would become infected, and the wounded man would be likely to die.
In 1763, during the French and Indian Wars, Sir Jeffrey Amherst devised a way to transport smallpox on blankets. In an attempt to reduce the Native American population, these blankets were then presented as gifts to the tribes.