This page cannot be viewed in frames

Go to page

If you have found a spelling error, please, notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

Skeleton of Persian warrior

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Skeleton of a Persian warrior after using combat gases
Skeleton of a Persian warrior after using combat gases | Photo: Courtesy of Yale University Art Gallery, Dura-Europos Collection

Skeleton of a Persian warrior from the 3rd century CE. The soldier is still wearing his extended chain mail. The man died in the tunnel that the Sassan army wanted to get under the tower to the besieged city of Dura Europos (Syria) in 256 CE.

Persian was not alone in the tunnel. Apart from his remains, the bones of 20 Romans were found; they dug a tunnel towards the Persians.

Scientists suspect that the soldier may have suffocated from toxic fumes. They also note that the armour is clearly widened, suggesting that the suffocating man wanted to get rid of his chain mail. Another concept is that his companion just wanted to pull him to the surface and pulled him by the armour.

Simon James, an archaeologist at the University of Leicester, says that in the tunnel, the Persians set fire to the bitumen along with sulfur crystals, and the vapours of this poisonous mixture leaked into the Roman side. Interestingly, the scheme of the Persian tunnel and the location of chemical weapons indicates that the shape of the dug passage was not accidental. He was to favour underground killing.

Combat gas use in Dura Europos

As a result of the poisonous smoke, the Romans lost consciousness in a few seconds, and after a few minutes, they were dead. A thorough analysis of the distribution of bodies located near the entrance to the narrow excavation indicates that the soldiers were attacked at the mouth of the Persian tunnel, and from the pile of their bodies and shields the Persians built an obstacle protecting them from the Roman counterattack.

  • Buried Soldiers May Be Victims of Ancient Chemical Weapon, "livescience", 8 March 2011

IMPERIUM ROMANUM needs your support!

If you like the content that I collect on the website and that I share on social media channels I will be grateful for the support. Even the smallest amounts will allow me to pay for further corrections, improvements on the site and pay the server.



Find out more!

Check your curiosity and learn something new about the ancient world of the Romans. By clicking on the link below, you will be redirected to a random entry.

Random curiosity

Random curiosity

Discover secrets of ancient Rome!

If you want to be up to date with newest articles on website and discoveries from the world of ancient Rome, subscribe to the newsletter, which is sent each Saturday.

Subscribe to newsletter!

Subscribe to newsletter

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: