Dura Europos - the first chemical attack in warfare

Jul 2017
153
Neverland
#1
Dura Europos was the easternmost military outpost of the romans in the East.
The city was originally built by the Macedonians of the Seleucid Empire in 300BCE. and named Dura.
In 113BC the Persian Parthians conquered the town.
Dura was briefly held by Rome under Trajan in 114 AD.
In 165 the roman legions took the city and held it till 265 AD when the sassanids took possession for good.
Rome renamed the city Dura Europos because the upper class were greeks , as opposed to the majority semitic and persian population.
In 265 AD the fortress was besieged,the roman soldiers killed and the citizens sold in slavery.
The sassanids tried to dig tunnels under the walls,but each time the defenders will build a counter tunnel and repel the attack.
Iranians managed to burn bitumen and sulphur crystals and fill one of the tunnels with poison gas.In 2009 in one of the tunnels 19 roman and 1 Persian skeletons were found there,all victims of the chemical attack.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos
 
Aug 2014
3,699
Australia
#2
It is hardly an early example. During the Peloponnesian War, over five centuries earlier, the Spartans lit a concoction of sulphur, pitch and wood at the walls of Plataea to incapacitate the Athenians during a siege. The Chinese had been using toxic gases even earlier - since at least 1000 BC. Other forms of chemical warfare have seen constant use since at least 10,000 BC in the form of poisoned arrows and contaminated water supplies.

Mayor's book is a good read:
Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World.
 
Last edited:
Feb 2017
425
Rock Hill, South Carolina
#3
Dura Europos was the easternmost military outpost of the romans in the East.
No it wasn't, Circesium was, not counting the Traianic conquest which reached the Suez and took Susa.

In 165 the roman legions took the city and held it till 265 AD when the sassanids took possession for good.
The siege of Dura Europos was over the winter of 256/257. Not 265.

as opposed to the majority semitic and persian population.
The majority of the population in the region spoke a mix of Aramaic (for reference, not the Hebrew language which was dead as a spoken dialect by then), Syriac, and Syriac Greek.

Iranians managed to burn bitumen and sulphur crystals and fill one of the tunnels with poison gas.In 2009 in one of the tunnels 19 roman and 1 Persian skeletons were found there,all victims of the chemical attack.
It's Tower 19. There were not 19 Romans found in the tunnel.

It's also not the first example of chemical or biological warfare, although maybe the first known example of the use of poison gas in military operations.
 
Jan 2015
2,786
MD, USA
#5
Apparently the Romans got driven out of a siege tunnel by a big jar of burning burning feathers, once. Can't remember when that was? Spain? Greece? Pretty far back, though, long before Dura Europas.

Matthew
 
Jun 2014
1,221
VA
#6
It is hardly an early example. During the Peloponnesian War, over five centuries earlier, the Spartans lit a concoction of sulphur, pitch and wood at the walls of Plataea to incapacitate the Athenians during a siege. The Chinese had been using toxic gases even earlier - since at least 1000 BC. Other forms of chemical warfare have seen constant use since at least 10,000 BC in the form of poisoned arrows and contaminated water supplies.

Mayor's book is a good read:
Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World.
However I think you would agree winning an extended siege because of it is on a much larger scale than a poison arrow that just makes sure a single man dies of his wounds?
 
Aug 2014
3,699
Australia
#7
However I think you would agree winning an extended siege because of it is on a much larger scale than a poison arrow that just makes sure a single man dies of his wounds?
In battle, arrows are shot in volleys of hundreds or thousands. In any case, even a single poisoned arrow is a very clear example of chemical warfare.
 
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Aug 2016
807
USA
#8
Everything is a chemical, therefore the first incident of warfare is the first incident of chemical warfare.

That said, do you mean chemical GAS warfare or something else? Would you include smoke inhalation from "normal" fire?
 
Feb 2017
425
Rock Hill, South Carolina
#9
However I think you would agree winning an extended siege because of it is on a much larger scale than a poison arrow that just makes sure a single man dies of his wounds?
The Persians didn't win the siege because of it, they just killed about 10 Romans in a counter-mining operation. The Persians won the siege because they tried tunneling into the fortress behind the walls, attacked up a ramp distracting the defenders and then snuck in through said Tunnel that the Romans didn't find.
 
Jul 2017
153
Neverland
#10
It is hardly an early example. During the Peloponnesian War, over five centuries earlier, the Spartans lit a concoction of sulphur, pitch and wood at the walls of Plataea to incapacitate the Athenians during a siege. The Chinese had been using toxic gases even earlier - since at least 1000 BC. Other forms of chemical warfare have seen constant use since at least 10,000 BC in the form of poisoned arrows and contaminated water supplies.

Mayor's book is a good read:
Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World.
I would hardly think a poison arrow to be a..chemical weapon of mass destruction.
As for the contaminated water supplies,this might fall in the area of biological warfare,just like in the times of the Black Death.
 

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