Talk:Salting the earth

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Scorched or burned[edit]

Isn't it "scorched earth" rather than "burned earth"? --Brion

Heh. agreed. Just fixed. mimirzero


Pasting discussion from Talk:Carthage I think it could be useful. Ericd 19:55, 9 May 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Is the story about salting the land around Carthage true? I have also read that is more of a legend than truth...they actually just threw a handful of salt on the ground to symbolize that no one would be allowed to live there after it was destroyed. (Now I'll have to see if I can find where I read that...) Adam Bishop 00:35, 17 Aug 2003 (UTC)
I have no reference about it but it's not impossible after all lake Tunis is a salt lake and it's not that far. Ericd 10:19, 17 Aug 2003 (UTC)

The case, for me, is made not so much on the impossibility of the act (the argument that "the Romans wouldn't do it because salt was precious"), but on the fact that no ancient source for the salting has ever been found. A very strong case has been made that the entire incident can be traced back to a history text from the late 19th century, and has been propagated from there ever since. The fact that a new city was established in essentially the exact same location only a little while later (and then designated the capital of Roman Africa) also suggests that the land was not permanently ruined. :Justin Bacon 16:53, 17 Aug 2003 (UTC)

I have no special skills in history. If there is no source before the 19th is probably mythical. For what I know about the geography the region I think is that the economic argument as presented on that page [[1]] is a wrong view. The only valid question to see if that was possible is how many people, how many chariots and how many time to carry free salt from lake Tunis? You know there is an article Salting the earth maybe we could incorporate this debate in? Ericd 06:23, 18 Aug 2003 (UTC)
The article mentions Pope Boniface VII who salted Palestrina in the 13th century, whilst referring to Carthage. Why does the article say that the first sources were then in the 19th century? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:44, 25 August 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The quote (translated) "I have run the plough over it, like the ancient Carthage of Africa, and I have had salt sown upon it...." is ambiguous as to whether the "like the ancient Cathage" refers just to the plowing or also the salting. Abby Kelleyite (talk) 20:49, 25 August 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Salting just the pomerium[edit]

Part of the Roman ritual for founding a city was to plough a furrow, the pomerium, around the city limits. There were some things one could and couldn't do within this city limit, e.g., no burials within, only outside. The city gods were only responsible to bless up to this line, etc. Think of it as an ancient zoning ordinance. The pomerium would have to be renewed and the city purified every five years. This is called lustration.

There was a variant of the lustral ceremony for revoking a city's status and part of the ritual was to plough salt into the pomerium. Sewing salt wasn't to sterilize the land, it was to destroy the city and its connection to its tutelary deities. I imagine this is what the Romans had in mind in Carthage. And when they refounded the city a few years later, no doubt they ploughed an inaugural furrow for the occasion. --Fulminouscherub 02:06, 2 December 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This might be a valid point, except for the obvious point that the sources don't mention the Romans doing this. They don't mention salt at all. The timeline proposed for the salting story by Ridley, Stevens, Visona, and Warmington, among others, seems a good deal more likely.

Why are the salts that poured in the streets after a snow doesn't kill plant life?[edit]

Why are the salts that poured in the streets after a snow doesn't kill plant life?

Cause there's asphalt there. Also, weeds are pretty hardy.

It does, less salt is used for example, on bridges over shallow waterways, to prevent plant damage (talk) 19:10, 7 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It does. See ‘Lake Wobegon Days’ by Garrison Keillor, and ‘The Great Salt Debate.’ — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2001:8003:3020:1C00:515A:BD84:433D:A0FF (talk) 07:17, 27 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Stone memorial of the Aveiro's shame[edit]

One point is unclear. Does the monument contain English text, or is the text presented a translation? The sentence just says, in parentheses, that it is in English. Maybe I'm just missing the obvious. I assume it's a translation just from common sense, but it's a little unclear. 08:30, 22 May 2006

It's a translation. I translated it. The original can be seen in Duke of Aveiro, and it says: Aqui foram arrasadas e salgadas as casas de José Mascarenhas, exautorado das honras de Duque de Aveiro e outras condemnado por sentença proferida na Suprema Juncta de Inconfidencia em 12 de Janeiro de 1759. Justiçado como um dos chefes do barbaro e execrando desacato que na noite de 3 de Septembro de 1758 se havia commetido contra a real e sagrada pessoa de D.José I. Neste terreno infame se não poderá edificar em tempo algum. The Ogre 14:49, 23 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Salting to expel evil[edit]

Portuguese tradition of slating the Earth, is mainly in a view to expel evil and not to destroy plantation per se. It was very common to do so in houses suspected to be haunted. Psyllis 16:19, 21 Septmeber 2006 (CET)

That is fascinating, I wonder if this belief derives from 2 Kings 2:21 ? (While looking this up I found a bonafide reference in Judges to sowing a rebellious city with salt, that I just now added to the article!) ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 17:54, 21 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, that's interesting. But, not doubting you, what are your sources? The Ogre 14:24, 22 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Book of Judges 9:45. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 14:28, 22 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oh, sorry, I guess you were talking to Psyllis... ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 14:31, 22 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yep! The Ogre 14:34, 22 September 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Tiradentes' prosecution in Brazil[edit]

The article text states that "the last known event of this sort was the destruction of the Duke of Aveiro's palace in Lisbon in 1759." It may have been so in Portugal itself, but in Brazil - then a Portuguese colony - part of the punishment imposed on Tiradentes, considered the leader of the failed seditious movement called the Inconfidência Mineira in 1789, consisted of salting the earth where his house had stood.

This was ordered in a 1792 document called the Autos da Devassa (very loosely translated, "Investigation Report," though it was actually the final sentence of the rebels' trial), and it is not an obscure scholarly subject: all Brazilian children learn that at school in their History classes.

It is not clear whether the salting was actually carried out (maybe not, because at that time salt was very scarce and expensive in the far-inland mountainous area of Minas Gerais, where the events took place), but this shows that the practice of salting the earth of convicted traitors' property was at least considered current in the Portuguese empire three decades after the Duke of Aveiro's former palace property was salted.

As a quick off-topic humorous side note (OK, maybe black humor...), in the curious language of the time, the Autos da Devassa also sentenced Tiradentes to "die of a natural death by hanging" (que morra de morte natural na forca) - which of course makes Brazilian schoolchildren burst into laughter when hearing that... :-)

--UrsoBR (talk) 10:00, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, that is funny, but to order a sentence of "natural death by hanging" actually makes sense; it means to hang a person and let her die slowly. That is, the person would be suspended by the neck at shallow height and left to suffocate gradually, instead of the more "humane" and common method of hanging, which breaks the neck after a short free fall into the gallows, bringing about a quick demise. Therefore, a sentence of "natural death by hanging" is a particularly severe and cruel punishment. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:34, 27 August 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Changed the text under the picture (Why is the garaffiti so important?) but would like to request a new picture for this article, perferably a picture of this activity actually being carried out, such as an anincet scroll, carving, or woodcut. -- Raveled


If the salt refered to common salt, NaCl, then I do not think salting the soil would be capable of preventing plant growth for long. Salt is after all highly soluble and needed in relatively high concentrations to damage plants; precipitation will rapidly wash it away. A few years ago a large quantity (maybe 50 kg) of salt intended for keeping roads free of snow was dumped near our house on a grassy verge near a hedge. The vegetation nearby rapidly wilted and died, but within a year had regrown. In a drier climate no doubt the salt would take longer to leach away, but I find it hard to believe that lands in the Soviet Union could have been salted no earlier than summer 1941 and still be unusable in 1944. It is not inconceivable that lands may have been salted out of desperation where salt happened to be available, but I fail to see it being a practical strategy in general because of the amount of salt that would be needed. Booshank 16:16, 13 October 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I know this comment was posted awhile ago, but you forget that one year's harvest in circa 500 BCE would have literally destroyed a city for all intents and purposes. Nodrogj (talk) 22:59, 31 October 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Can you find any reliable source that claims that enough salt was used to harm a significant amount of agricultural land? Besides the practical arguments here on the talk page (salt was expensive, transporting enough salt would require thousands of oxcart-loads, etc.), the secondary sources we have found (which follow the primary sources closely) all talk about salt as a way of consecrating the city to a god and cursing it. None talk about destroying fields or carting tons and tons of salt. --Macrakis (talk) 13:49, 1 November 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For reference if anyone wants to see the deleted material: Here's the old edit. An archived version of the page from the Environment Canada website. And an archive of the page Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts. Jimw338 (talk) 13:48, 2 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That's exactly what I think... how the heck would mere salt prevent plant growth for a long period of time? --Luigifan 22:47, 7 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Plus, salt was one of the most valuable goods at that time, more expensive than silver. From that point of view, especially since silver is a lot more toxic than salt and doesn't wash out, "silvering" the land would make much more sense. Very likely salt was used by medieval writers/translators as a more dramatic periphrasis, due to its alleged magical abilities.

Thanks for your original speculation, but we cannot use it on wikipedia articles. We can only use speculations contained in reliable sources. For example, there are sources saying the practice was to dump loads of sea-water on arable land, killing all vegetation as it evaporated, leaving only salt behind. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 12:18, 23 February 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I came across this article [2] on a recently 'salted field' in Louisiana. Apparently seawater from hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed the land's ability to harvest certain crops like rice. However the land should be reusable in 2010. The article states that some farmers are switching to more 'salt tolerant' crops, suggesting that not all crops are equally affected by high concentration of salt in the soil. --A.Moore (talk) 06:52, 28 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This article is not about the effects of salt on agriculture. See Soil salinity for that. This article is about the symbolic salting of the earth in the ancient Middle East and other places. --macrakis (talk) 14:52, 28 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For reference: Here's the old edit. An archived version of the page from the Environment Canada website. And an archive of the page Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts. Jimw338 (talk) 13:45, 2 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I edited a sentence thus "The custom of purifying or consecrating a destroyed city and cursing anyone who dared to rebuild it was widespread in the ancient Near East, and the sowing of salt was intended to be environmentally damaging.Kildwyke (talk) 04:19, 31 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hello, Kildwyke, and welcome to Wikipedia. I have reverted your edits to Salting the earth because they are about soil salinity, not about the ritual practice and folkloric legend of symbolic salting of the earth. Please read the talk page for some relevant background. Thanks, --Macrakis (talk) 14:30, 27 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I’m sorry you had to revert my edit. I did read this talk page before I edited but proceeded because I agreed with 15 other writers there. But thank you, Macrakis, for reminding us of the difference between literalism and symbolism. Don’t you think there must be something in the article that provokes the same wrong response in all 16? We must fix it, for I see (above) that this is a recurring problem for you. I am sure the cause of our misunderstanding lies in the second sentence: “…but it is unclear what part the sowing of salt has in the process” for that part of the sentence is written in the present tense, and seems to be asking us what we think nowadays! So it needs to be made clear that what you would like to know is what the ancients thought/felt back then. 1. Changing “has” to “had” would be a good start. 2. My next proposal is to change “it is” into the past; in this way: “… but historical accounts are unclear as to what part the sowing of salt had in the process." 3. Further, to remind the materialistic reader that we are talking of metaphors: “… but historical accounts are unclear as to what the sowing of salt meant in that process.” Please let me know if you agree with any of these proposalsKildwyke (talk) 04:19, 31 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Kildwyke, thanks for your thoughtful comment. I agree with your suggestions about how to clarify the text. From our modern perspective, it seems clear that sowing salt symbolized infertility, but who knows? --Macrakis (talk) 13:35, 31 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think a short section on whether the salting was actually effective would be beneficial to this article. Zarcadia (talk) 23:13, 4 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Effective" in what way? As far as we can tell from the sources, this was a symbolic act of some kind. Should we also discuss in the animal sacrifice article how much blood it takes to fertilize land? Macrakis (talk) 02:30, 5 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm not familiar with this subject, I was under the impression that they believed the salt itself would affect the soil. If they didn't and did it purely as a symbolic gesture or 'curse', then I agree there would be no need to mention effectiveness. Zarcadia (talk) 13:57, 5 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If you haven't yet, you might want to read this whole Talk page. Spreading enough salt to destroy agricultural fertility over a significant area would be an enormous operation, and we have no reason to believe that that was ever attempted. --Macrakis (talk) 15:17, 5 January 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think it's relevant to at least briefly address what effect salting the earth either has, was believed to have, or is symbolic of. Surely, at least a mention of the reason why the earth is sometimes salted is relevant. Even if it's just pure symbolism, the reason for the symbolism has to come from somewhere. Like Zarcadia, I was under the impression that people believed that salting the earth prevented plant growth. If that belief is really the origin of the practice, then it at least deserves mention, as the origin of the practice being discussed is highly relevant. I understand that a detailed discussion on the effectiveness of salting the earth to prevent crop growth belongs in a separate article on soil salinity, but there's a difference between saying "they're different issues deserving separate articles" and taking the stance that they are completely unrelated and irrelevant to each other, which, Macrakis, your arguments are dangerously close to. I'm not trying to put words in your mouth if that's not what you're getting at. All I'm saying is let's at least address what's relevant here. Minaker (talk) 10:37, 2 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I certainly agree that it would be helpful to address why the ancients sprinkled salt on destroyed cities. We can speculate that it had something to do with killing plant growth (because that is what is obvious to us). But it could have to do with the colors that result from sprinkling various mineral salts in fire. It could have to do with reminding people of salt flats which are dry wastelands. It could be a reminder that the city didn't pay its salt taxes :-). We can speculate all we want, but if there is no scholarship supporting any particular theory, it is original research and doesn't belong in WP. Perhaps I've missed something, and the cited sources do address this, or perhaps there are other reliable sources that address it, in which case it would be great to add that information to the article. Have you reviewed the sources? --Macrakis (talk) 12:45, 2 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Macrakis, I guess we're in agreement and I didn't even realize it. I was under the impression that we (and by "we," I mean the modern era) knew the reason for salting the earth, but you were opposed to including that information because you felt that it belonged in a separate article. But it looks like I was mistaken, and I completely agree with you that pure speculation would count as OR. Thank you for clarifying, the misunderstanding was mine. Minaker (talk) 04:38, 4 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Macrakis, like Many others I find the article stretches credulity in proposing that there is no reliable source to indicate the purpose of sowing the earth with salt. For starters, side references to Biblical content are treated as no references at all.

It is CLEAR that the intent was punitive and, if believed to be purely symbolic, then clearly symbolic of sterility.


"Deu 29:23 [And that] the whole land thereof [is] brimstone, and salt, [and] burning, [that] it is not sown, nor beareth, nor any grass groweth therein, like the overthrow of Sodom, and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim, which the LORD overthrew in his anger, and in his wrath: Deu 29:24 Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land? what [meaneth] the heat of this great anger?"

The Shechem story you refer to is also abundantly clear that the object is not to consecrate, but to desecrate.

"Jdg 9:45 And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that [was] therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt."

The reason the "lay" belief has survived for a couple of thousand years is not seriously a matter of Original Research, and qualifies surely for at least an accurate reportage that the act of sowing salt was a desecration symbolically making the soil sterile. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:06, 16 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I am certainly no expert on Old Testament beliefs, and did not make up the phrasing "consecrate", but took it directly from the sources. Gevirtz says (p. 54) "...the city was destroyed and consecrated. A curse was then pronounced upon any who might, in the future, attempt to bring the consecrated land under cultivation". This comes directly from his source, Aeschines, who says "they... razed their city, and consecrated their country, in accordance with the oracle. And moreover they swore a solemn oath that neither they themselves would till the sacred land, nor would they allow another, but that they would aid the god and the sacred land...." In other words, they dedicated the land to a god as a sacred place whose cultivation would be offensive to the god. Are you saying that the translation of "consecrated" for καθιέρωσαν is incorrect here; seems unlikely, as the root ιέρ- = holy (another translation is 'dedicated'). Do you have WP:Reliable sources that say desecrate rather than consecrate? --Macrakis (talk) 01:29, 16 August 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There is widespread belief that this was actually effective. Whether that belief is refuted or simply dubious, it's a common belief and should be addressed. (talk) 18:17, 15 January 2015 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Can I point out that this article does not mention the actual reason for salting the earth - preventing crops to grow. It's only hinted at. (talk) 13:51, 8 July 2021 (UTC)martenReply[reply]

This has been gone over in detail. Did you read the discussion above? In particular:
  • Spreading enough salt over a large area would be extremely expensive.
  • Our ancient sources don't mention this reason.
  • The sources we have say that it is a religious practice to "consecrate" the land. What exactly that means is unclear, but if it means to make it infertile, it is strictly symbolic.
  • Most stories are about strewing salt on cities, not on fields.
Thanks for your interest. --Macrakis (talk) 16:36, 8 July 2021 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Roman predecessors, the Assyrians??[edit]

Someone care to explain how the Assyrians are the predecessors to Rome? Their sphere of influence never extended to Italy... look at the web page for Assyrian. Anyone have a problem if I reword it to just say that it was a practice used by the Assyrians? Vargob 17:37, 20 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I wrote that, because as powerful Empire the Assyrians were certainly predecessors of the Romans, as well as in the strictly chronological sense, without having had to cover the same geographic ground. The meaning of the word predecessor usually refers to time, not space. ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 19:13, 20 November 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I did a double-take when I saw "predecessors" as well. I move the Assyrian section up in the article because the first example given shouldn't be one that is now thought to be fabricated. Plus, they seem to have the earliest example of the practice (1290 BC). Tocharianne 14:44, 19 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Didn't Josephus mention the Romans salting the area around Jerusalen when it was sacked? Banaticus 22:22, 12 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews Book 5, Chapter 7:4 mentions the salting of Shechem, but I don't believe he mentions any other episodes of salting cities. Do you have a cite? --macrakis (talk) 16:53, 28 April 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"poured into the land"[edit]

...Shouldn't it be "poured onto the land"? --Scyrma 19:59, 26 December 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Salt dissipation[edit]

How long would it take for the land to be viable again? I don't recall the exact sources, but I think I heard somewhere that some places that were salted in wars 5,000 years ago are still unviable. Not all, I'll grant it's possible for the salt to be washed away under the right conditions, but...not everywhere might have those conditions.

In my experience, admittedly in a humid climate with about 8-900mm of rain per annum in England, salt is washed out of the soil fairly rapidly. Where road salt has been dumped in heaps next to the road vegetation has grown again within a year.

In a drier climate it would take longer, but I cannot imagine it would take that long. Booshank 21:03, 26 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Do Note that they don't just sprinkle salt, they plow it in. I would like to know the right amount of time, but then again 5000 years is impossible because northern Italy hasn't any scars from Carthage.

This whole idea is absurd. According to Straight Dope ( it would require about 31 tons of salt to render an acre unusable. Given this estimate, it would require about 200,000 tons to render a ten square mile area (6400 acres) unusable. According to the wikipedia article on salt ( the entire annual world production of salt is 200 million tons/year. That means that in order to spoil an area of ten square miles, you'd need .1% of the entire salt production for an entire year! Can you spoil an acre of farmland? Yes. Could you realistically spoil even a small farm? No way.

I dont want to look smart but what is the annual production of sea water? — Preceding unsigned comment added by Neurorebel (talkcontribs) 04:23, 23 July 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

New Source on Carthage?[edit]

For the benefit of those of us who do not have immediate access to your source, would you please share exactly what you have that so conclusively demonstrates the story of Rome salting Carthage was unheard of until the 20th Century??? I bet I even have some 19th century history books in my collection right now where I could find it mentioned. The previous version of the article said the story first appears in the Middle Ages, so it just seems like a dramatic shift to suddenly proclaim that the case is closed on the strength of one new author whose words aren't quoted. What exactly does this source say that you found so convincing? ፈቃደ (ውይይት) 15:01, 10 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Salting the sidewalk[edit]

Would it be okay to meantion this practice since people do it to prevent snow from piling up on the ground? VoltronForce 09:48, 8 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Probably not, since the purposes of the two practices are completely different and unrelated to each other. Tocharianne 15:11, 8 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Salting the Pretzel then?
This thread is making me hungry. Sarsaparilla (talk) 03:04, 26 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Merge proposal[edit]

[ Off-topic disruptions deleted per per WP:TALK Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 20:09, 16 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Nonsense vs non-standard
This posting was deleted as mere nonsense, but perhaps it merits serious consideration.
  • 18:24, 16 March 2009 Til Eulenspiegel (talk | contribs) (14,830 bytes) (rv nonsense contributions by User:Tenmei)
Please hypothesize that the proposed merge, albeit a non-standard tactic, was not mere nonsense. In that case, I might still be wrong or a better course-of-action might be indicated, but the proposal would not be deserving of casually dismissive treatment.
The current dispute resolution procedures do not adequately anticipate the problems presented here.
Academic integrity needs to become a practicable priority -- not just a theoretical nicety. Anything else destroys the credibility of our collaborative efforts to build a wiki-encyclopedia. --Tenmei (talk) 18:37, 16 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Tenmei, you are causing a disruption in order to make some kind of a WP:POINT, which has nothing whatsoever to do with this article. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 20:09, 16 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Tenmei and others' vandalism[edit]

Editors such as Tenmei, who have admitted they have no knowledge in this area and nothing to contribute, try to disrupt the article Inner Asia during the Tang dynasty and attempting to delete any attempt to improve coverage of the topic of the article. This disruptive behavior is highly violative of wikipedia rules, and warrants intervention if it continues.Teeninvestor (talk) 20:01, 16 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

NO -- I am the non-involved, 3rd-party who cannot be derided as "pro-Mongolian." Labels will profit nil. Please strike out the comments which mischaracterize my participation in the development of this article and Wikipedia.
NO -- I invite you to devote your attention to the specific questions which have been raised. --Tenmei (talk) 20:32, 16 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Carthage etc.[edit]

I have added several sources to the article and reorganized it a bit. --macrakis (talk) 22:26, 21 November 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The sentence featuring the current footnote 8 claims that the first reference to the Roman salting of Carthage began in the 19th century, but the sentence of footnote 11 (citing the pope in 1299) specifically refers to the Roman model of salting Carthage. This is inconsistent, and should be resolved if possible. (unsigned)

The cited document says that he ordered Carthage plowed 'following the old example of Carthage in Africa'; 'and also salted' ("ipsam ... aratro subjici ad veteris instar Carthaginis Africanae, ac salem in ea etiam fecimus seminari ut nec rem nec nomen aut titulum habeat civitatis.") Whether the salting was part of the "old example of Carthage" is unclear at best (but there must surely be better Latinists on Wikipedia than me). It's like saying: "Give me a vanilla ice cream like Ann's, and lots of chocolate sauce"; did Ann's have chocolate sauce? --macrakis (talk) 14:24, 24 December 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I read: ...also we ordered to drop salt, so that nothing, not even name nor any title be of that city. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Neurorebel (talkcontribs) 04:34, 23 July 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]


The article reads this:

"Various modern sources claim that the Roman general Scipio Aemilianus Africanus plowed over and sowed the city of Carthage with salt after defeating it in the Third Punic War (146 BC), sacking it, and forcing the survivors into slavery. However, no ancient source mentions this; the first references to the Roman salting of Carthage are found in the late 19th century,[8] making it likely that the story is a later invention, modelled on the story of Shechem.[9] The ritual of symbolically drawing a plow over the site of a city is, however, mentioned in ancient sources, though not in reference to Carthage specifically.[10]

When Pope Boniface VIII destroyed Palestrina in 1299, he ordered it plowed "following the old example of Carthage in Africa", and also salted.[11]"

If Pope Boniface VIII ordered it plowed "following the old example of Carthage in Africa" and salted the land, wouldn't the salt story be more than a 19th century legend? Would that not mean that this legend was around in the 13th Century, if not earlier? There's something being overlooked here. Either Pope Boniface VIII never said that, or Carthage was actually salted. In any case, one of the two things need to be removed. Either the part about the legend, or the part about the pope.

-CaradocTheKing (talk) 00:20, 11 June 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Boniface clearly believed (following ancient texts) that Carthage was plowed. But it is unclear whether he believed Carthage had been salted, or just that he ordered Palestrina salted in addition to the plowing a la Carthage (presumably following the Biblical example of Shechem). Our reliable sources don't interpret this as meaning that he thought Carthage was salted. --Macrakis (talk) 14:28, 27 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Punishing traitors" section has been without citation for 7 months.[edit]

Guys, IMO this section reads very poorly and has remained without any sources backing it up since 21-Nov-09. That's just too long, and I believe this section should be removed in its entirety.Tgm1024 (talk) 00:21, 1 July 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A later invention?[edit]

"The story is a later invention, modelled on the story of Shechem." This is cited, but I think we should say "According to Ridley, the story is..."; I agree it is a later development, but how can we -- or Ridley -- possibly know that it is 'modeled on the story of Shechem'? It seems likely that it's a misinterpretation of what Boniface VIII said about plowing Palestrina "after the example of ancient Carthage in Africa" and sowing salt. (talk) 23:58, 30 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As far as I can tell, there is no dispute in the scholarly literature that the story is a later invention. True, "modelled on the story of Shechem" is not as firmly established, so I've added a "probably" -- what do you think? As a general rule, I think it's a bad idea to mix source attribution with substantive narrative, except of course when there's substantive disagreement, which as far as I can tell there isn't. --Macrakis (talk) 03:27, 31 March 2011 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Second Boer War and "unfeasible for herbicidal warfare"?[edit]

The opening paragraph says that salting the earth was "unfeasible for herbicidal warfare". Presumably it is talking about salting the earth as a military strategy during the middle ages being apocryphal (it's not entirely clear, and nothing in the article suggests that it ever really has been feasible). The article on Scorched earth (and the article on the Second Boer War) seem to indicate that it was definitely used during the Second Boer War as part of the "scorched earth" strategy employed under Kitchener. Here is the incomplete sentence mentioning it:

The List of crimes against humanity committed by Britain from 1899 - 1901 included the destruction of 40 towns, importing vast amounts of salt from the Indian colony that was thrown in the water-supplies and on the fields to prevent crops from growing after the British soldiers burnt the crops down.

If that is true, then that would seem worth mentioning here, especially if it represents the first time a nation really had the resources available to use it on any real scale. Or if it wasn't very effective, that would be worth mentioning as well :-) Jun-Dai (talk) 20:49, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I suppose -- if we can identify a reliable source for this. The relevant paragraph in the Scorched earth article has several footnotes, and it is not clear which one of them is a source for this. I have looked at several available online, but the source is apparently not one of them. --Macrakis (talk) 22:15, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This aroused my curiosity, so I did google searches in books, along the lines of "kitchener" "boer" and "salt"... Nothing, nothing at all. Tons of contemporary accounts, but not a single one mentioning use of salt in this fashion... With only one exception, and that one was published by the "Wikimedia Foundation", in other words, a mirror of the often unfounded crap that has been written by random people right here over the years. Conclusion: This allegation is totally bogus and someone's old OR that should have been removed a long time ago. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 23:15, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
After some more searching, I found two other books that mention British pouring salt on fields as part of the scorched earth tactics, BUT --- one was only published in April 2012 (South Africa: History in an Hour by Anthony Holmes), and the other in 2011 (Open the Jail Doors — We Want to Enter by Stuart A. Kallen)... Neither of these works gives a source for this info, but both do seem to rely heavily on wikipedia, so it looks like you could say this urban legend is now one of our own babies... Most books written at the time talk about how scarce salt was, however. Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 23:28, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Here's another update. Apparently the "salting the Boers' fields" legend was also popularized by a 2010 film on the scorched earth policy, called Tracker (film). It's possible wikipedia picked it up from there, but I'd be more willing to bet it was the other way around...
Don't get me wrong, what I'm learning about the way the Boers were mistreated in the 'Scorched Earth' campaign is undeniably horrific... All I'm saying is that the idea of salt being used as part of it, to the best of what I can determine, seems to have originated on wikipedia, as there are no contemporary (or pre-2009) accounts including such a detail... Til Eulenspiegel (talk) 23:42, 28 May 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This is the edit (March 2012) that added this claim to the Scorched earth article. As you can see, it is poorly edited, obviously very POV, and poorly sourced. I have tagged it with section-POV and removed the dubious claim about salting fields. --Macrakis (talk) 17:49, 30 May 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]


On an episode of The Simpsons Homer salts the earth of his neighbor Flanders. PortlandOregon97217 (talk) 08:57, 3 November 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Salting the earth is also one of the main tropes in Supernatural_(U.S._TV_series) (talk) 21:40, 30 June 2014 (UTC)Collin237Reply[reply]

As natural phenomenon[edit]

According to a study by UN University, about 62 million hectares (20%) of the world's irrigated lands are already affected of salty soil, up from 45 million hectares in the early 1990s.[1] In the Indo-Gangetic Plain, home to over 10% of the world's population, crop yield losses for wheat, rice, sugarcane and cotton grown on salt-affected lands could be 40%, 45%, 48%, and 63%, respectively.[1]--Neurorebel (talk) 04:17, 23 July 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  1. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference physorg102014 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
This is all interesting and important, and relevant to the article on soil salinity, but not to this article, which is about an ancient ritual practice. --Macrakis (talk) 18:26, 21 November 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There is a clear relation betwen both articles not being mentioned, article should apport technical data about why salting the earth is pernicfious and how long last its effects --Neurorebel (talk) 22:49, 2 May 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Modern cases[edit]

My addition of a current incidence of salting departs from the historic nature of the page. Was a "public property" heading the right way to go? Or is something like "Modern times" better? KarenJoyce (talk) 15:35, 14 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This page is specifically about "the ritual of spreading salt on the sites of cities razed by conquerors". Other uses of spreading salt on the ground, like keeping sidewalks ice-free, vandalizing garden allotments, etc. are not relevant here. --Macrakis (talk) 16:17, 14 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks, I considered the vandalism to be an act of desecration of a site used to feed the poor, calling back to this ancient ritual. It sounds like we aren't even in agreement that the act is a desecration and not some sort of blessing. KarenJoyce (talk) 20:10, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm pretty sure that the modern vandals intended to hurt the fertility of the land. The ancient ritual was apparently not about salting agricultural land to kill its fertility, but about symbolically salting cities to curse their re-inhabitation. None of the ancient sources mention agricultural fertility. It's not whether we (you and I) are in agreement -- it's just following the sources. --Macrakis (talk) 21:26, 17 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]