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Greek fire

Greek fire/sea fire

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‘Υγρό Πυρ’, or ‘Liquid Fire’ if translated in English, is known as ‘ Greek Fire ’, or ‘Sea Fire’, in literature, and was a weapon invented in the 7 th century AD by the Byzantine Empire.

According to the historian Theophanes, it was invented during the 6 th century AD by the Greek architect Kallinikos, a former resident of Heliopolis who was residing in Baalbeck. This claim is currently being debated, and other historians believe that it was discovered in Constantinople by a team of chemists of the Alexandrian school.

This weapon was some kind of liquid that used to be launched in pots with catapults, or by the use of tubes mounted on ships. It appears that ‘Greek fire’ could spontaneously ignite, but the most interesting feature of this weapon was that the fire continued to burn when in water and that throwing water on the fire could only spread it. Therefore, the fire was difficult to control and thus a mistake could create big destructions with many casualties for the Byzantine ships.

This weapon played an important role in the defeat of the Arabs when they attacked Constantinople, and later against other invaders such as the Venetians.

The details of the weapon were top secret, so today we do not have a formula to replicate it. There are a few suggestions as to the mixture’s ingredients, but they are only speculations.

By John Black

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