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The earliest recorded use of gas warfare in the West dates back to the fifth century BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta.

Although their primary function was never abandoned, a variety of fills for shells were developed to maximize the effects of the smoke.

In 1672, during his siege of the city of Groningen, Christoph Bernhard von Galen, the Bishop of Münster, employed several different explosive and incendiary devices, some of which had a fill that included Deadly Nightshade, intended to produce toxic fumes.

The offensive use of living organisms (such as anthrax) is considered biological warfare rather than chemical warfare; however, the use of nonliving toxic products produced by living organisms (e.g.

toxins such as botulinum toxin, ricin, and saxitoxin) is considered chemical warfare under the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC).

Many nations possess vast stockpiles of weaponized agents in preparation for wartime use.

The threat and the perceived threat have become strategic tools in planning both measures and counter-measures.

Sparta was not alone in its use of unconventional tactics in ancient Greece; Solon of Athens is said to have used hellebore roots to poison the water in an aqueduct leading from the River Pleistos around 590 BC during the siege of Kirrha.

The earliest archaeological evidence of gas warfare is during the Roman–Persian wars.

In the 17th century during sieges, armies attempted to start fires by launching incendiary shells filled with sulfur, tallow, rosin, turpentine, saltpeter, and/or antimony.

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