Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Alexander the Great first searched for oil!

Oil spills have been evident in various countries of the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the Far East since the ancient times. According to the writings of Herodotus and other authors such as Plutarch, Pliny the Elder and Marcus Vitruvius, oil spills have occurred in various parts of India, Persia, Syria, Mediterranean islands, Malaysia, China and many more. 
Ancient Greek writers who described the campaign of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC state the existence of oil sources in the southern shores of the Caspian Sea and the River Ochus. This was clear when Alexander took his army there. During the night there were various sources of light around the area were the Greek army was camped, which were lit with a bright yellow light. Alexander was intrigued by this phenomenon and examined it to see how it works. He found that a yellow liquid was used that flowed through a tube which produced the bright light. 



The natives called this light Chirak and the fluid was known as Naphatha, which means the liquid leaking from the ground. The fluid came out from a specific source near the west coast of the Caspian Sea, today Azerbaijan. 
Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician and philosopher (who is regarded as the father and founder of medical science), described the use of oil as an active ingredient in many drug prescriptions. 
In the writings of other ancient Greek writers, sources of oil in Sicily were evident, explaining how they believed it was a Sicilian oil which was used for lighting lamps, as roughly explained in Alexander's case near the Caspian Sea. From these examples and other references recorded in ancient documents, it is apparent that oil was known as a liquid fluid long before the modern epoch. The extraction of petrol was achieved with primitive methods in the ancient era. They usually manufactured pits, drilling until the point where the oil was in a liquid form.  
Pliny the Elder describes how the Romans were attacked by improvised devices during the siege of Lucullus which caused a fire whilst being covered with oil. Other historical records indicate that Persians and Greeks used incendiary arrows by steeping them in a mixture of oil and sulfur. Julius Africanus, an author from th 3rd century BC, describes an inflammable mixture of ingredients containing oil and a rock debris. Even Jenkins Khan used it in the 12th-13th centuries flammable arrows. According to Masudi, an Arab author, geographer and traveller from Baku, explains how his city produced oil in the 10th century that was used locally and nationally, transferring it in leather bags.  
Hence, it is quite axiomatic to point that even during the ancient and medieval periods many nations used oil in various ways, which we even use today!

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