Greek Fire, also referred to as liquid fire (ὑγρόν πῦρ), was one of the most famous weapons of the Byzantine arsenal and its use played a crucial role in the defence of the Empire, ensuring its long survival. The formula for the incendiary mixture was closely guarded for centuries and deemed forever lost after the collapse of the Empire. Its precise composition thus remains unknown to this day, though research suggests that petroleum was a vital ingredient, allowing the substance to burn on the surface of water. Greek fire was first used at sea where it was particularly effective against wooden ships; it was later delivered via clay grenades, either by hand or by launching with a catapult.
Selection of Byzantine Grenades
A selection of Byzantine earthenware hand grenades. All feature a short neck and thick rim with a small mouth. This allowed the item to be filled with an explosive liquid known as ‘Greek fire’ and used as a hand grenade in battle. The mouth would have also accommodated for a fuse to instigate the explosion.
Provenance: From a collection of a North London gentleman, latterly with a London gallery.
Condition: Very fine for all. Some minor chips and earthly encrustations.