What Was Antimony Used for in Ancient Times?

Antimony is a metalloid element that has been used by humans for thousands of years. Its usage in ancient times was primarily for medicinal purposes, but it also had other important uses.

Medicinal Use

One of the most significant uses of antimony in ancient times was for medicinal purposes. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used antimony-based compounds to treat a variety of ailments. These compounds were primarily used as laxatives and emetics to induce vomiting.

In the Middle Ages, antimony was believed to have mystical properties and was used as an elixir of life. It was even believed to have the ability to transform base metals into gold.


Antimony was also used in cosmetics during ancient times. In Egypt, women would use a mixture of antimony, lead, and other ingredients to create a black paste that they would apply around their eyes. This paste not only enhanced their beauty but also protected their eyes from the bright desert sun.


Antimony had various military applications as well. During the Roman Empire, antimony-based compounds were used in arrowheads to increase their penetrating power. Antimony trioxide was also added to gunpowder during the Middle Ages to increase its explosive power.

Other Uses

In addition to its medical, cosmetic, and military uses, antimony had other important applications during ancient times. For example, it was used as a glaze for pottery and ceramics because it gave them a glossy finish. Antimony-based alloys were also used to make bells because they produced a clear sound when struck.

The Bottom Line

Antimony played a crucial role in ancient times due to its unique properties and versatility. From medicine to cosmetics to warfare and beyond, this metalloid element has left an indelible mark on human history. While its modern applications are different, antimony will always be remembered for its important contributions to ancient civilization.

  • Medicinal use – laxatives and emetics
  • Cosmetics – used to create a black paste around the eyes
  • Warfare – used in arrowheads and gunpowder
  • Other uses – glaze for pottery and alloys for bells