Thursday 16 April 2020

SEA SERPENTS and WWF not Corona and WHO

Whilst banging on about various weapons used at sea with Syrakousia I must just collect a few notes I have had for ages about even more exotic things. The use of wildlife for everything possible is not just a Chinese trait. In the ancient world anything nasty could be used as a a biological weapon. We are not talking about zoonoses here , just the zoo bit.
Read more about chucking invertebrates as a form of warfare HERE
 In his later career, the great Hannibal was forced to take employment as a jobbing, zero-hours, gigging, independant, external military consultant with Antiochous the Great of the Seleucid Kingdom. Knowing of Hannibals' great gifts as a land general Antiochous put him in charge of a fleet. It did not go well. Worried Antiochous was going to betray him to the Romans Hannibal burn this contract and signed  on with Prusias of Bithynia
(Is that what he said to Antiochous ? Ed.).
Undismayed by Hannibal's record on the briney, Prusias sent him to fight the Pergamenes,     at sea.

From Cornelius Nepos 'The Lives of the Great Commanders : Hannibal'

 ' They were to engage by sea in a few days; Hannibal was inferior in number of vessels, and had to use art in the contest, as he was no match for his enemy in force. He accordingly ordered as many poisonous serpents as possible to be brought together alive, and to be put into earthen vessels, of which when he bad collected a large number, he called the officers of his ships together, on the day on which he was going to fight at sea, and directed them all to make an attack upon the single ship of King Eumenes, and to be content with simply defending themselves against others, as they might easily do with the aid of the vast number of serpents;.........
......As the rest of the Pergamenian ships bore hard upon the enemy, the earthen pots, of which we have previously spoken, began suddenly to be hurled into them. These, when thrown, at first excited laughter among the combatants, nor could it be conceived why such a thing was done; but when they saw their ships filled with serpents, and, startled at the strangeness of the occurrence, knew not what to avoid first, they put about their ships, and retreated to their camp upon the coast '

Thus Hannibal achieved another victory by indirect means...

But the other star of the story is the snake ! And after years of obscurity, shunning the limelight - and the daylight-  it was found.. maybe.In 2013
and in 2015

Actually it is not rare... just rare at the margins of its distribution, as all species tend to be...

But this snake was apparently used AS A PROJECTILE

 ' Scientists in Italy have come across the Javelin Sand Boa, a type of snake that the ancient Greeks used to hurl at their enemies as a projectile to create panic and confusion during sea battles.'

 Maybe a confusion with its species name which literally means 'throwable' but has been changed into its common name which is 'Javelin Boa'. Still a very throwy name.

Chucking them could be a problem - wriggly floppy snakes.. 

Maybe they fed them with Viagra before loading them into the catapults ?

sub-species Eryx jaculus ballisticus
 The truth is that they were immured in pots and the pots were thrown or shot to break and release the deadly serpents within so they could rampage through the packed ranks of rowers in the unfortunate Pergamene war-galleys.

In the ancient world it is was common to keep edible dormice in pots.
So the concept of pre-packaged delivery systems was nothing new.

Like this only snakier .. or do I mean less ..snacky, If I was a Roman..

WWWWAAAIIITTTTTT!!!!!  ' Deadly serpents' !!???

Eryx jaculus - family Boidea - a boa. Boas are non-venemous. They crush their prey..this snake was how big ?  80cm ? !!!

 OK, no one ever remembers hearing 'Hannibal the Herpetologist who crossed the Alps with 100,000 men and a load of snakes' do they?   It was a unique error of judgement to incite serpenticide.  He is innocent. I blame the newspapers.

No Hannibal..... no no no ! They are on the WWF Red List ..not for use in warfare !

Actually, Hannibal was doing the Pergamenes a favour and treating their fleet to an antique version of a Rentokil visit. A shower of Eryx jaculus would do something to reduce the rodent population onboard a war-galley even if it did not take a toll on the crew!

Now, can we have some other candidates for Hannibal's snake ?  A viper of some kind ?

Contact details at Reprile Database .. HERE
Here is our boy ! A metre of viper with deadly venom - the Ottoman Viper, Montivipera xanthia.

Like Monty, doesn't suffer fools gladly. A touch aggressive if irritated. Range is eastern Aegean and eastern Turkey... fits the bill.
Now the small question of rounding them up and getting them into the pots.......