Biological and chemical warfare has been around for centuries. Starting from the invention of fire and the first poison discovered humans have been using it to our advantage. For centuries we have been discovering and refining the ways we use the weapons. We have figured out how to propel poisons and fire. We have discovered how to artificially create the chemicals needed to make a strong long lasting fire with little effort.
In the ancient world, the use of biological and/or chemical weapons was frowned upon and viewed as cowardly. The famous historian Thucydides stated that “it was supposed that Sparta poisoned the wells.” Even though Sparta won the Peloponnesian War, its reputation was destroyed. Homer also frowned upon the use of biological tactics. He made it clear that Odysseus poisoning his arrows to attack the Trojans was a dishonorable act. Mayor states that the western world was not alone in their condemnation of the use of biological weaponry. The Eastern world also frowned upon such practices. In the Laws of Manu, The Hindus forbade the use of venom or fire on their arrows (The Laws). In Sun Tzu’s Art of War, he approves of the use of fire as a way to frighten and confuse the enemy but condemns using it to cause pain and suffering (Tzu).
Triumphing against these painful and deadly weapons was rare and if a person were lucky enough to escape the torment of these seen as godlike. Even the great demigod Hercules could not escape the torment of the Hydra’s venom.
Buhler, G., trans. The Law of Manu. Fordham University Press, c. 1500 BCE. 30 March 2012.
Homer. The Odyssey. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Books , 1996.
Mayor, Adrienne. Greek Fire, Poison Arrows and Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World. New York: The Overlook Press, 2003.
Santosuosso, Antonio. Barbarians, Marauders, and Infidels: The Ways of Medievel Warfare. Westview Press, 2004.
Tzu, Sun. The Art of War. Trans. J. H. Huang. New York: Quill William Morrow, 1993.
Word Book. Inventions and Discoveries: Warfare. Ed. Jake Bumgardner. Chicago: World Book, Inc., 2009.