Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs: Unconventional Warfare in the Ancient World

We rated this book:


Unconventional warfare is a provocative concept: is it more creative, diverse, or devastating than choosing traditional weaponry? Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs describes all manner of ways of vanquishing enemies in antiquity, reaching well beyond respect for ethical means.

Poison arrows were the most popular weapon, additionally supplying confidence even to “unskilled archers or weak warriors.” A biochemical arsenal showed ingenuity derived from the natural world; with a modern lab, science was never a prerequisite. They played a significant role in destroying the classical Greek and Roman cultures, and were no less the methods preferred in the Indian, Chinese, Persian, and Japanese past.

Accounts survive showing how animals, insects, marine creatures, and snakes were adapted to destroy. The range of options encompassed scorpion-filled “bombs” lobbed at the opposing army, fire ships thrust towards land, water polluted with flayed animal skins, and toxic honey, as the only known sweetener, was tantalizing.

In each chapter, Adrienne Mayor details an option, whether to injure or inflict disease, prolong death, or bring an immediate end. But throughout, the writing is straightforward and never lurid, despite the subject. The pages meet the definition of both eye-opener and page-turner, irresistible in the daytime, perhaps less recommended for bedtime reading.

Reviewed By:

Author Adrienne Mayor
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 432 pages
Publisher Princeton University Press
Publish Date 26-Jul-2022
ISBN 9780691211084 Buy this Book
Issue October 2022
Category History