From Fortean Times 203 (November 2005):

"I can understand the murderous work of imaginative criminals because I was an imaginative criminal myself" - Fort, Books, p895.

Ancient Hellenes had no word for `terrorist' -modern Greek offers 'Tromokrates' ('Lord of Fright'). Doesn't mean they had none - no word for `orgasm', either...

Latin provides `terror'; Romans used this noun by metonymy to denote its perpetrators. It entered English via the London Times (27 May 1795) and Edmund Burke on the French Revolution, a propos Jacobin excesses.

The Almighty claims priority, slaughtering (Exodus 13.29) the innocent first-born of Egypt - Osama bin God. Cuneiform tablets establish Hittites as the first bio-terrorists, herding infected animals and women into enemy territories to contaminate them - proto-anthrax letters.

Long before Munich, the Spartans (420 BC: Thucydides, History, bk5 chs49-50) broke the Olympic truce, an unprecedented breach of religious law, attacking the host Eleans. Panic gripped the Games. No bloodbath, though - this was psychological terrorism.

Bulgarians play a lurid role in fact (Georgi Markov and the 1978 poisoned brolly) and fiction (bumbling hit-men in Fleming's Casino Royale). Their Thracian forebears wrought the Peloponnesian War's worst atrocity (Thucydides, bk7 ch29), massacring the entire population of Mykalessos, most horribly "breaking into a school where the children had just assembled and killing every one."

Seneca (On Anger, bk2 ch9 para3) coined the expression 'pestilentia manu facta' - "man-made plague". Woman-made, too, in Livy's (History, bk8 ch18) account of a coven of Roman feminists who indiscriminately murdered leading men of state with a home-brewed poison that produced plague-like symptoms.

Fort's mysterious hatpin jabbers (pps884-91; cf. my `Some Old Pricks,' FT129:51) had their counterparts in AD 91 and 192 (Dio Cassius, Roman History, bk67 ch11 para6, & bk73 chl4 para4), randomly poisoning people, "not only in Rome but virtually over all the world".

Michael Frayn (At Bay in Gear Street, Fontana, London, 1967, p62) comically "opposed air-crashes regardless of race or colour". Ancient terrorism transcended nationality and religion. Marauding monks - the Christian Al-Qa'eda - wantonly destroyed pagan holy places, notably (AD 391) the great Serapeum at Alexandria. Their foulest deed was the lynching (AD 415, Alexandria) of Hypatia, the prominent Neo-Platonist, mathematician, wit, and inventor of tampons: "Torn from her chariot, in the holy season of Lent, stripped naked, dragged to the church, inhumanly butchered by Peter the Reader and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics, her flesh scraped from her bones with sharp oyster-shells, her quivering limbs delivered to the flames" (Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch47 - his blame of Bishop Cyril as a 'mad-Mullah' type for orchestrating this crime may or may not be justified).

"The Japanese back in 1890 were coolies. Then they showed such talents for slaughter that now they are respected everywhere" - Fort, p889.

Barry Baldwin
(reprinted with permission of the Author; blame any typically graphic transcription errors on dm)