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Scorpions in antiquity

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Scorpion on a Greek shield
Scorpion on a Greek shield

Pliny the Elder said that scorpions are a terrible plague. They are almost as venomous as vipers, but their venom causes much more torture to the victim who dies in painful agony lasting up to three days. In turn, the Roman writer Claudius Aelianus clearly emphasized that scorpions are hated, and that they hide in the desert under every stone and clod of sand.

The Persian kings were so afraid of scorpions that before their army marched through the desert, they first commissioned great hunts and paid prizes to the best hunters. Scorpions are so predatory that they hunt for cobras and lizards.

Claudius Aelianus enumerated 11 species of scorpions: white, black, smoky, red, green, crab-like, fiery red, orange, with a double spike, with seven segments and with wings. Most of them were identified by entomologists; the rest in their opinion are incorrectly assigned other animals.

Scorpions had such a bad reputation in antiquity and caused such fear that Greek hoplites placed their images on shields to strengthen the terror of the opponents. Similarly did the praetorians, the personal guard of the Roman emperor. The Romans also named one of their deadly machines – scorpions.

Roman historians claimed that the desert inhabitants were resistant to scorpion venom and had only slight bite symptoms. Imitating ancient customs, to this day Beudini believe that injecting crushed and dried scorpions into the bloodstream makes them resistant to venom.


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