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Adrienne Mayor

  • ... war with poison and chemicals was not so rare in the ancient world ... An astounding panoply of toxic substances, venomous creatures, poison plants, animals and insects, deleterious environments, virulent pathogens, infectious agents, noxious gases, and combustible chemicals were marshalled to defeat foes — and panoply is an apt term here, because it is the ancient Greek word for 'all weapons.'

  • Although it is tempting to imagine an ancient era innocent of biochemical weaponry, in fact this Pandora's box of horrors was opened thousands of years ago. The history of making war with biological weapons begins in mythology, in ancient oral traditions that preserved records of actual events and ideas of the era before the invention of written histories.

  • Once created, toxic weapons take on a life of their own, resistant to destruction and threatening harm over generations. Tons of still-active chemical weapons from World Wars I and II lurk in long-forgotten dumping areas, releasing toxins and posing grave risks to unwitting finders. These weapons, and the countless vials of smallpox, anthrax, and other super-pathogens stored in laboratories around the world, ripe for weaponization, have their antecedents in the 'plague demons' imprisoned in jars buried under the temple in Jersualem, and the pestilence locked inside the golden casket in Babylon. Centuries later, those containers were broken open during wartime, and plague spread over the land.

Adrienne Mayor, U.S. historian, writer

(1946)