Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Acid Attacks: Ancient Version

Brent D. Shaw, Sacred Violence: African Christians and Sectarian Hatred in the Age of Augustine (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), p. 667:
In the only case where Augustine is specific about a new device used by circumcellions in their attacks, it was not the addition of a new type of manufactured weapon to which he refers, but rather the use of a concoction of vinegar and lime to produce an acidic liquid which they threw into the eyes of their victims.143 Although this might indeed have been "a new and horrible" innovation, it was still produced out of products that were readily to hand in the rural environment in which these men lived and worked.144

143 Aug. Contra Cresc. 3.42.46 (CSEL 52: 453): "Insuper novo et antehac inaudito sceleris genere oculis eorum calce aceto permixto infundentes et infercientes, quos evellere conpendio poterant, excruciare amplius eligunt quam citius excaecare. Nam primo tantum calce ad hoc facinus utebantur, sed posteaquam illos, quibus hoc fecerant, cito salutem reparasse didicerunt, acetum addiderunt." Cf. Ep. 88.8 (CCL 31A: 145); Possid. Vita Aug. 10.6 (Bastiaensen: 154): "Aliquibus etiam calcem cum aceto in oculos miserunt."

144 Calx or lime was widely produced on rural estates, not only for "liming" soils, but also for use in building: Cato, De Agr. Cult. 16 (production); 18.7 (use in paving and foundation courses of a pressing room); Pliny, NH, 36.55.177 (use as mortar and stucco); Vitruvius, De Architect. 7.3.2 f. (in stuccoing buildings). Acetum or soured wine, used to produce vinegar, was also a standard by-product of vinting: Varro, LL, 9.66.

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