Roman Soldiers Likely Hit by Chemical Weapon
Archaeologists discover secrets in ancient bones
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Mar 13, 2011 10:52 AM CDT
New evidence finds that some Roman soldiers dug up in the 1930s may have been the first victims of chemical weapons.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – When archaeologists first found the bones of the 19 ancient Roman soldiers and one Persian buried under the ancient Syrian city of Dura-Europos in the 1930s, they assumed they’d died in some kind of fierce underground melee—when the Persians attacked the city, they’d dug tunnels under the walls. But now, researchers believe they were actually some of the earliest victims of chemical weapons—and the first whose remains have ever been found, LiveScience reports.

Archaeologist Simon James realized the tunnels were too small for a fight, so he hit on the theory that the Persians heard the Romans digging a counter-tunnel toward them, set a fire as a trap, and threw in sulfur and bitumen to form a poison gas. “It would have almost been literally the fumes of hell coming out,” James says. He admits it's a "circumstantial case," but it's a compelling one. “I think [James] really figured out what happened,” says another historian.

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Showing 3 of 7 comments
beckjr2000
Mar 9, 2011 10:16 AM CST
If this is the case than continued investigation should reveal the remains of the fire and chemicals used. Fascinating theory though!
finkster
Mar 8, 2011 4:33 PM CST
Hey just feed the Persians a lot of beans then face their asses towards the Romans...that would kill them quick enough.
BobbyRicigliano
Mar 8, 2011 3:51 PM CST
Persians: Our poison gas shall fill the air. Romans: Good, then we will fight in a cloud.