Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs

Narrated by: Suzanne Toren
Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
Categories: History, Ancient History
4.0 out of 5 stars (137 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Flamethrowers, poison gases, incendiary bombs, the large-scale spreading of disease...are these terrifying agents and implements of warfare modern inventions? Not by a long shot.

Weapons of biological and chemical warfare have been in use for thousands of years, and Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs, Adrienne Mayor's fascinating exploration of the origins of biological and unethical warfare, draws extraordinary connections between the mythical worlds of Hercules and the Trojan War, the accounts of Herodotus and Thucydides, and modern methods of war and terrorism.

©2008 Adrienne Mayor (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Illuminating... Adrienne Mayor marshals not just myth, but also the writing of ancient authors and evidence from archaeological digs to show that biological and chemical weapons saw action inbattles long before the modern era." ( The New York Times)

What listeners say about Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A great read for those interested in Antiquity

The books flows quickly and is very interesting. If it were in print, I'd call it a page-turner. There's a lot of material about Greek gods and Greek mythology, but it seems necessary to put the actual history into context (or in fact, the reverse - the actual use of these weapons puts the mythology into perspective for the modern reader). It is amazing how brutal and unmerciful human beings can be to each other. And how much pain and suffering must have been endured in ancient times. I am surprised that none of the other histories of antiquity I've read mention these weapons. For that reason, I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the period. It also provides a perspective from which to consider modern nasty weapons.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Awesome

I have been bragging about this book to everyone. Excellent. Superb entertainment, plus its all true. The Scythian arrow poison sounded revolting and frightening. You will learn of vipers, water witches, neuro-toxin honey- there is no weakness in this book. Every single word feels vital. You get no filler, no slow spots, no long editorials. Every chapter is fascinating and enlightening. Flaming pigs! War elephants. Its the ultimate brainy MAN book, but I think anyone would enjoy it. A great war history, that may even appeal to those who don't normally like non-fiction. The narration is good. Lively and far from the monotone you often get in "heady" books.

6 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic read but not always for weak stomachs

I first discovered Adrienne's writing with First Fossil Hunters and when I saw this one available I was excited. She did not disappoint one bit. Her research is flawless and she ties it together very well.

My only sorrow is that the rest of her books are not available from Audible. Though I did discover today that The Poison King is now and downloaded as fast as I could. I hope they will go back and get her other 2 books on folk-lore and natural history.

4 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

Terrifyingly Creative

It never ceases to amaze me just how creative the human race can be when it comes to killing ourselves. A book like this expands on any level of historical understanding of the ancient world, and as a well-written history book should do, it opens our eyes to those terrors of the past that we should not (but invariably do) repeat.

I think we've all heard of Greek fire and poison arrows. This book goes into great detail as to the effects of these things. But there are other weapons that I could not have expected. For example, one of many, how do you defeat war elephants? Apparently the answer is battlefield bacon: you light pigs on fire and let them loose in the hopes they actually run in the general direction of the elephants instead of into your own soldiers. This book outlines everything from how these varying arsenals worked to the dangers of self-inflicted blowback and beyond.

Anyone who loves history needs the experience of this book, as it will completely change the way you see ancient warfare. Anyone who enjoys historical fiction or fantasy, this book will probably add a particular edge to those tales as well. It's a grisly topic, fascinating from a scholarly perspective, and delivered in full reviling detail by the narrator in a way that sells it as effectively as a BBC News anchor.

3 people found this helpful

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Poisoned Arrows

What made the experience of listening to Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs the most enjoyable?

The book was fantastic as it was full of actual and mythological history in relationship to lethal weapons.It was fascinating to learn that Greece was one of the areas where the concept of lethal weaponry was first instilled into the imagination of its people through fable and myth, and how armies and individuals grasps these deadly ideas in order to deploy their enemies. The book explained in explicit detail the dreadful physical responses, often fatal to lethal weapons created throughout history.

What other book might you compare Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, & Scorpion Bombs to and why?

This is my first experience.

What about Suzanne Toren’s performance did you like?

She was wonderful

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No

Any additional comments?

This book is also very interesting from a medical point of view.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

Informative but Repetitive

This book is fascinating! It's entertaining and may teach you a thing or two, but I would recommend having at least a basic understanding of ancient history before stepping into this book. The author tends to jump around, following only a semblance of chronological order that often left me scratching my head to etch out the timeline. My only other issue was the repetitiveness of some anecdotes. As much as I love Heracles and his unfortunate life, I did not need to be reminded of the Hydra's poison again and again and again.

I would recommend this book to a friend who already has a good grip on history, or possibly one who really enjoys learning about the numerous ways humans have devised to horrible maim/ kill other humans. We are creative beings in our self destruction, like fireworks. Or decorative wedding cakes.

Delicious.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Great book for those o like history

If you like me enjoys history, this is a great book, he talk about some things about chemical warfare in ancient times that i never hear in other books. So go for it

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One of those oh shit non-fiction books

I wish I had access to the bibliography to dig deeper. Book was one of those that whet the appetite for more . . .

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    5 out of 5 stars

Entertainment at it's finest

loved using this amazing app easy to enjoy and makes it easier to get into books.

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Outstanding Audiobook

Loved this audiobook. It grabbed my attention from the beginning to the end. I highly recommend it to everyone else.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • kingnoodle
  • 12-04-12

Very, very, very interesting

This book is an excellent catalogue of every odd or underhand weapon you ever heard of and an awful lot you probably hadn't!

Wow your friends with amazing facts like scorpions have been know to glide on strong desert winds! Wow your mother-in-law with your knowledge of paralyzing honey (believe it or not - I did)! Sicken your wife with stories of the romans scaring elephants with flaming pigs (okay, I may be losing points here).

If you like history, weapons or historical weapons then you'll get a lot out of this book. Like I said, very, very, very interesting

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Dave
  • 04-10-11

Does what it says on the tin

With an interest in all things military I was looking forward to some unusual ancient weapons and, on the whole, I was not disappointed. The text moves along quite nicely, and frequently draws comparisons between ancient weapons and those of the 20th or 21st century. It also touches on mythological examples of such weapons, which makes sense as myths can illuminate the world in which they were written even though the story is fiction. The book tends to make the most of the material available, sometimes repeating something that was said a chapter or two ago, so it is sometimes rather more wordy than it needs to be, but not enough to seriously spoil the listening experience. Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone with a particular interest in ancient warfare.