A decade later, the Hittites to the north attacked the weakened area around Simyra. "The Hittites were able to steal booty, including animals, and brought the animals home," along with the tularemia the livestock harboured, Trevisanato explains. Not too long after, the Hittites themselves apparently began to suffer from an epidemic of tularemia.Bad pun, choice weapon of science writers:
History seems to have repeated itself a few years afterwards when another ancient people, the Arzawans from western Anatolia, saw the weakened Hittites to their east and decided to strike. "They thought, if we attack now, we can push the border back to where we want," Trevisanato says.
But strangely, during this period of warfare between 1320 and 1318 BC, records indicate that rams mysteriously began appearing on roads in Arzawans.
The Arzawans took the sheep to their villages and used them for livestock breeding. Soon after, though, they began to suspect a link between the appearance of the animals and the terrible disease ravaging their communities.
"They started wondering 'Why do these rams start showing up on the road?'" says Trevisanato. He believes that among the Hittites, "somebody must have had the bright idea" to send diseased rams over to their Arzawan enemies.
Ultimately, the Arzawans were so weakened that their attempt to conquer the Hittites failed.
Still, in order to consider the rams as a true biological weapon, evidence is needed to clearly prove that the Hittites understood the full ramifications of these animals towards their enemies, says Mark Wheelis, at the University of California, Davis.The theory has a surfeit of charm to make up for its moderate level of plausibility. Still, it doesn't take the germ theory of disease to connect "sick ram makes us sick" to "sick ram will wipe out our enemies."
My favorite Bible story seems to square with the theory, too.
The LORD's hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors. [a] 7 When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, "The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god." 8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, "What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?"Footnote [b] helpfully adds, "Or with tumors in the groin (see Septuagint)."
They answered, "Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath." So they moved the ark of the God of Israel.
9 But after they had moved it, the LORD's hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors. [b]