Friday, January 2, 2015

Liza researches the poison Antiimony.


Today, I am discussing the poison Antimony.

Peep Rep: Isn't that the payments sent when a couple divorces?

Liza: That's alimony. The poison Antimony is a slow caustic poison that Egyptian women used to darken their eyelids and eyebrows. Then some royal lady made her servant eat some and thus it was discovered to be a poison. 

I have to wonder how that jump occurred.
Egyptian Princess: Stupid girl, you've dropped my jar of stibium (antimony). 

Slave: I am so sorry my princess. Please forgive me for not catching the jar you knocked off your stand. I will find a new glass jar and place the black dust from the floor into it.

Princess: I'm not wearing dirt on my eyelids, and how dare you skirt your responsibility in this matter. 

Slave: No, the fault is mine. I was wrong to let you put the glass so close to the edge.

Princess: Did you not read your slave guide manual? You are not allowed to be sarcastic. EVER! As punishment, you must lick the stibium off the floor.

Slave: *leans over and like the black dust* This taste horrible.

Princess: Serves you right. It will teach you to be more careful in the future.

Proving her right, the slave grasped her stomach and rolled to her side, and promptly threw up on the nice clean floor.

By the Roman era, they understood Antimony a bit better. Specifically that it likes to hang with arsenic and silver, rather like the three musketeers of things you really shouldn't swallow.

Attempts were made to purify it of the silver and arsenic, but Antimony and Arsenic resisted being parted. So while they could remove the silver, resulting in a white powder, it was very hard to remove the arsenic.

As we all know, the Romans tended to gorge at meals. Thus small cups with an inner lining of the metal Antimony (and probably it's bud, Arsenic) would be poured with wine and allowed to ferment. Then the grotesque Roman would drink the wine, now containing antimony and arsenic, and promptly throw up their excessive meal. Hopefully, not on the floor, but who knows what the etiquette was for mass vomiting after dinner. 

We've lost the quaint custom entirely...

Antimony is actually quite lethal. The reason why these Romans didn't keel over is because their stomachs were stuffed, so the second they drank it, the brain would get a notice that two of the three bad muskateers were at the door and it would purge 3 gallons of half digested food, post haste, carrying along all the poison with it.

Then the still living Romans would resume eating. What a fabulous life....

However, some clever but clearly disgruntled people discovered if you only fed a person a minuscule amount of antimony a day, they wouldn't throw it up, and instead the metal content would build up inside them, and it could kill a person over time, with no one realizing they had been poisoned at all, since the symptoms would suggest common stomach and mental problems rather than poison.

So this is the poison for the patient, vindictive, conniving person. 

The symptoms will begin with a burning throat and difficulty of swallowing. Next, you will incur violent stomach aches, followed by non-stop vomiting (and dry-heaving) plus diarrhea. You will also faint a lot, (so best just stay in the tub). Not surprisingly, your change in health will make you extremely depressed as you are convinced you are dying even as everyone tells you you're fine and to walk it off.

You'll perspire profusely, but your skin will be cold and clammy. It's probably best if you remain in the bath tub, then your caretake (who is likely the person who poisoned you) can turn on the shower making you smell and feel better.

If you are truly unlucky, your legs will cramp with spasmodic contractions. Eventually you will fall unconscious and finally your heart will declare matters hopeless and you will die, naked in a tub, proclaimed dead by natural causes.

Or you would in the 19th century. 
A proper autopsy can show us whether antimony resides in our stomach now, so best not try this slow tedious method. 

But in the 19th century, they lacked the skill to identify the poison. Sometimes a doctor would declare murder, but remain uncertain about which poison killed the person. 

For example, many believed Napoleon had been poisoned with either arsenic, or antimony. However, reassessment has caused some to claim the short stubby guy died of stomach cancer. 


Liza's interest in poisons is due to her Victorian Sleuths: Xavier Thorn & Vic Hamilton. 
She is not a scary macabre person who goes about poisoning people to prove her novels could actually happen the way she wrote it.


The Troublesome Apprentice — The greatest sleuth in Victorian England hires a young man who turns out to be a young woman.

The Missing Partner — Opps! The greatest sleuth in Victorian England goes missing, leaving Vic to rescue him, a suffragette, and about 100 servants. Not to mention an eviscerating cat. Yes, let’s not mention the cat.


The Mesmerist — The Mesmerist can control people from afar and make them murder for her. Worse yet, Xavier Thorn has fallen under her spell.

9 comments:

  1. I'm so glad that you gave us the nice disclaimer about how the poison would be found out today, esp. since I already have so many of the different symptoms. At least, no sitting in a tub...

    It really is interesting how people are finding that things that they thought were healthy really aren't. For example the teflon on the pans that I used to use to cook were bad for me. Now I have cast iron and while I do get a little extra iron in my diet, it's good for me.

    I must worry now about Xavier being under that person's thrall. Poor man... first missing and now under a spell. I'm so glad that Vic is around to keep him safe.

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  2. I always learn so much from your fun posts, Liza! Keep 'em coming!

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  3. I'm a little shocked I comprehended this, considering my mind is, "Fire bad. Tree pretty." right now. But this is fascinating. Thanks!

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    1. Is this your way of telling me I write and behave like a two year old?

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    2. That's actually a line from an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Nothing I said was a comment on you, but one on my exhaustion.

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  4. Wonderful post. I love historical, cultural information and especially about poisons! http://flossiebentonrogers.com

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  5. LOL, should I be worried...Glad you enjoyed it.

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