Almost 2,000 years ago, 19 Roman soldiers rushed into a cramped underground tunnel, prepared to defend the Roman-held Syrian city of Dura-Europos from an army of Persians digging to undermine the city’s mudbrick walls. But instead of Persian soldiers, the Romans met with a wall of noxious black smoke that turned to acid in their lungs. Their crystal-pommeled swords were no match for this weapon; the Romans choked and died in moments, many with their last pay of coins still slung in purses on their belts.
Nearby, a Persian soldier — perhaps the one who started the toxic underground fire — suffered his own death throes, grasping desperately at his chain mail shirt as he choked.
Story: Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience | Photo: Yale University Art Gllery, Dura-Europos Collection