Real-Life Poisoned Weapons

mmadsen

Retired User
I know various tropical hunter-gatherers use poisoned arrows and darts to hunt. Are there any examples of poisoned weapons being used by ancient or medieval warriors? Is there a poisoned weapon that could reasonable deliver its poison to an armored foe?
 

Temrek

Maximum HP is a lie
Validated User
Generally not, poison rarely acts fast enough to actually be useful against something that fights back.
 

Pete Nash

Swordsman and writer
Validated User
I know various tropical hunter-gatherers use poisoned arrows and darts to hunt. Are there any examples of poisoned weapons being used by ancient or medieval warriors? Is there a poisoned weapon that could reasonable deliver its poison to an armored foe?
The scythians were reputed to poison their arrows, but it killed via wound infection rather than immediate effect. Greek mythology has examples of poisoned arrows and their lingering effects too, which were probably derived from actual practices.

As Temrek points out, there are very few poisons which act fast enough to affect someone already exchanging blows with you... not unless you drop a beehive on their heads or sling box jellyfish at them! ;)
 

Max

A dapper chap without a doubt
RPGnet Member
Validated User
None that I can think of.

Poisons don't really work on melee weapons, because a) at best you can deliver the dose to the first guy you go up against, and that's assuming it's not worn off your blade before you get to stick it in him, and b) any reasonably available poison remotely feasible as a coating on a blade simply doesn't work fast enough to be of much help up close, anyway. Archers and javelineers didn't use poison, either, because it would've simply been more hassle than the marginal potential benefits justified. It was far easier, if you were feeling evil, to just lop some diseased meat over the walls (there are records from some sieges of corpses being flung into cities and fortresses by siege engines) or dunk a rotting carcass in the enemy's drinking water (preferably after making sure it's in no way connected to your own water reserve).

Hunters who use poison darts or arrows typically hunt small animals, and even then they have to follow them around (usually putting in a few more darts in the process if given the chance) for a good while before the poison takes effect and actually drops the catch.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
Some folks would dip arrows into the latrine to make sure that even minor wounds become infected. Again, this isn't the type of tactic you'd try to use in a real time fight where the other guy was trying to stab your face. It was more of a terror tactic you'd use by firing random arrows into an enemy camp.
 

Petter Wäss

I am agape with fnords
Validated User
One might use poison as a deterrent for others as in "Don't duel that guy! I heard he poisons his blade so you'll die even if you win."

Or just use the possibility to unnerve an opponent.
 

Ace

New member
Banned
I suspect poisoned daggers were occasionally used by assassins (just to be sure kind of thing) and while there is little record of it, the hand crossbow (the real Renaissance version not the Drow exotic, good as modern version) might have been poisoned now and again.

North American First Nations were said to coat arrows with a mixture of excrement, snake venom and some kind of mash from poison berries or herbs but as been stated, there is little good evidence of this and it was probably a terror tactic if used at all.

Here is a Wikipedia article on Arrow poison too.
 

Fringe Worthy

Registered User
Validated User
Hunters who use poison darts or arrows typically hunt small animals, and even then they have to follow them around (usually putting in a few more darts in the process if given the chance) for a good while before the poison takes effect and actually drops the catch.
I seem to be recall you can also use this for big game hunting. A video from my school day ages.

In that some savana fellows stuck a poison arrow or three into a giraffe from a nearly useless bow and just followed the giraffe around for a couple days until it fell over from the infected wounds and they judged it was safe to beat its head in with some rocks.

You may want to avoid doing this with anything that might eat or chase you.

Well, unless a posthumous celebration for disposing of that killer lion appeals.
 

Delwugor

Drunk Ugly Dwarf
Validated User
It was more of a terror tactic you'd use by firing random arrows into an enemy camp.
This, very demoralizing to the troops. Also effective in slowing down and harassing an approaching force without direct engagement.
 
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