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Salting the earth

From Academic Kids

Salting the earth refers to the practice of spreading salt on fields to make them incapable of being used for crop-growing. This was done in ancient times at the end of some wars as an extremely punitive area denial measure.

The most famous example of salting the earth supposedly occurred at the end of the Third Punic War in 146 BC between the Roman Republic and Carthage. After sacking the city of Carthage and forcing the few survivors into slavery, an area 50 miles around the city was salted. It is an open issue as to whether this event actually occurred. Aside from the logistics involved (it would have required a tremendous amount of salt, at the time so valuable that it was sometimes used as money) the first reference to the event is found in the Middle Ages, thus making it possible that the story was a later fabrication.

It does seem fairly certain however, that despite the expense and the logistics, salting the earth was indeed put into practice by the Roman's predecessors, the Assyrians. According to ancient records, they did this as a last resort, to capitals of neighboring countries who repeatedly rebelled against paying them tribute - including Mitanni in ca. 1290 BC, and centuries later, Elam in ca. 640 BC.

The Red Army also salted Soviet fields as a part of the scorched earth policy against the Nazi invasion. It was reported that when the Soviets reclaimed the territory, they were equally unable to use it.

Today the term is used in a variety of ways, referring in general to any sort of poisoning. This varies from the direct in the use of area denial or radiological weapons, to the philosophical, where it is often used to describe business strategy to avoid takeovers (similar to but broader in scope than a poison pill).

External links

A scholarly paper (http://www.edwardgoldsmith.com/page158.html) on land salinization - does not address the historical issue.

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