In ancient Greece, fire has always been honored. With him and his prey associated with many legends that are known today. The god of fire in Greek mythology Hephaestus, who was the husband of the beautiful Aphrodite, was revered by people almost the same as Zeus. Everyone remembers the story of Prometheus, who stole the fire and gave it to people. The Greek god of fire was infuriated by arbitrariness and punished the titan. But his last mission was fulfilled, people learned to warm themselves by the fire and cook food.
The god of fire in Greek mythology was described as a mighty lame blacksmith, who forged iron in his cave all day long. One of the ancient legends says that it was in his forge that the famous Greek fire was made. Then Hephaestus gave him to the priests who worshiped him. Perhaps, there was not and there was no more phenomenal invention in the world than the Greek fire. Many centuries ago, he brought animal horror to his enemies, but he still haunts people.
Prototypes of greek fire
According to historians, something similar to the Greek fire was seen in the V century BC during the Peloponessian War. In the course of the battle between the Athenian and Boothi armies under Delia, one of the sides used a strange type of weapon: a gentle log, "spitting" with an incendiary mixture. Presumably, the "cocktail" consisted of three ingredients: oil, sulfur and crude oil. His Boeotians “threw” out of the pipe, trying to smoke Athenians from the besieged city.
A little later, the ancient Greeks created a flamethrower, which fired a clean flame. Charcoal was most likely used as fuel, which was pushed out by the force of air. He was pumped with the help of furs. Of course, these inventions were far from real Greek fire, but who knows if they were not the basis for the future “thunderstorm of the Middle Ages”?
History of creation
On the question of who invented Greek fire, almost all chroniclers answer unequivocally: the mechanic Kallinikos is a native of Syrian Heliopolis, who ran to the Byzantines when the Arabs occupied his hometown. This refugee did an excellent service to the new homeland and entered forever in world history. And everything happened like this: in 673, the Arabs went with the sword to the Christians. They managed to reach Cilicia, which at that time belonged to Byzantium. There they wintered and moved further in the spring.
Emperor Constantine the Fourth learned about the approach of the enemy army and began to prepare for defense. This is where the mechanic Callinicos came in handy. The refugee, already injured by the Arabs, really did not want to meet with them again. And he decided to help Byzantium by giving Konstantin his invention - a siphon breathing with liquid fire.
The sovereign accepted the offering gratefully. Under the leadership of the Syrian such siphons a large number was created, they equipped the ships. When the Arab fleet approached, they poured it on a hot liquid that instantly burned wood. The remnants of the enemy army left the battlefield in panic ... And the Byzantines exulted. Still would! Now they felt powerful and invincible. The invention of Greek fire marked a golden era in the history of the empire.
The production of "fire-breathing siphons" was put on a grand scale. Understanding the full value of weapons, the rulers of Byzantium kept the recipe for making Greek fire a great secret. One of the emperors even declared that the fire was donated by an angel who set a condition: no other people should receive it.
This became a state secret, and for disclosing anyone threatened certain death, whether it is a slave or the son of the emperor. However, ordinary Byzantines could not find out how Greek fire was being prepared. They did it in secret laboratories, under seven locks. And the heirs to the throne from their early years were inspired by the importance of silence.
For example, Constantine Seventh wrote to his son in his will: “Your main task is to take care of the Greek fire. For it was created by the Angel especially for Byzantium. And if someone asks you for a recipe, refer to the angelic ban. ” And on the throne in the temple on the orders of the emperor cut out the text of the curse, which was supposed to fall on the one who will give the secret. The harsh measures acted, and the Byzantines managed to keep this secret for several centuries. And wishing to learn the recipe was oh so much!
Loud fiery victories
The very first use of Greek fire caused a stir in the Muslim world. When the Arabs, after more than forty years after the defeat, moved to Byzantium again and were burned again, legends began to circulate about the mysterious weapon. Restless conquerors tried to seize Constantinople six decades later - in 882. But this campaign ended badly for them. Shortly before the third attempt by the Arabs - in 872 - the Byzantines fought back from the Cretan army and burned 20 enemy ships.
And in the year 941, the Russian prince Igor, who decided to go to war, rich in Constantinople, received the teeth. And in 1043, his "feat" was repeated by another ruler of Kievan Rus - Vladimir. It was then that they started talking about Greek fire throughout the civilized world. And messengers from Slavs, Muslims, Europeans rushed to Byzantium ... But no one managed to achieve what they wanted by cunning, bribing or kinship.
One of the legends
The state secret was kept as the apple of one's eye. The authorities even spread one legend. It told about a high-ranking Byzantine grandee, whom the Arabs offered a huge amount of gold for issuing a prescription. He agreed and had to transfer to the enemies the drawings of the device for throwing and the very composition of the Greek fire. Before he went to meet with the Arabs, he decided to go to church and pray. But before the entrance to the temple the heavens opened, the divine flame fell upon the nobleman. So God punished the traitor, for the secret was given by the Lord to the first Christian sovereign, and his disclosure was considered a great sin.
Description and use of miracle fire
Adaptation Byzantines was an oblong metal vessel, molded (presumably) from bronze. A flammable mixture was poured inside the tube and the vessel was firmly sealed. During the battle, a special throwing machine threw him at the enemy. A fire burst from a vessel with a terrible roar and noise, burning everything in its path. Judging by the records of the chroniclers, it was impossible to extinguish the flame - the water only strengthened it. And, hitting the deck of an enemy ship, he instantly turned the tree into ashes. How exactly was the "eruption", scientists have not yet figured out. Research continues to this day.
In the early stages of its existence, the Greek fire was used only during sea battles. And although the early flamethrowers did not differ in perfection (they threw the vessels at short distances - a maximum of 25 meters; they could not be used with a strong headwind, etc.), even the mere mention of these weapons caused terror to the soldiers. Which, by the way, had a more psychological explanation. People were afraid of Greek fire, because they did not understand its nature, considered something mystical, transcendental ... But it was worth it to go a distance of more than 25 meters, and no gods would help the fire to overtake the victim.
Little about terms
It should be noted that the Byzantines did not call the fire Greek. They did not consider themselves to be Greeks, but were called Roma. They called him simply fire. But other peoples did not invent any epithets. Historians have been able to find references to the sea fire, and the liquid, and the living, and the fire of the Romans. Later, when the weapon broke out beyond the borders of Byzantium, the Muslims called fire naphtha. However, as they called all the incendiary mixtures used during battles.
Perfecting the greek fire
As time went on, the wars did not end, the Byzantines improved their secret weapon. For example, they began to equip the bow of the ships with siphons in the form of a dragon's head. It turned out that the destructive flame escaped as if from the mouth of a mythical animal. This intensified panic among superstitious enemies.
Around the beginning of the second millennium, Greek fire, the photo of which can be seen in this article, was used not only at sea, but also on land, having invented hand siphons. With their help, for example, the appliances near the walls of the besieged cities, wooden gates and even living force were set on fire. A lightweight portable device made it possible to throw out a deadly cocktail right in the face of the enemy during close combat.
Fire outside of Byzantium
No matter how hard the Byzantines tried to keep the secret of making Greek fire secret, the moment came when "the bird flew out of its cage." After five centuries of the strictest secrecy, a traitor was found. It happened in 1210, when the Byzantine Emperor Alexei the Third was deprived of the throne. He was forced to flee his native country and found shelter in the Koniysky Sultanate. Just eight years after his escape, the Arabs used Greek fire in a battle with the Crusaders. And soon the Slavs mastered the technology, applying it during the attack of the Bulgarian Oschel in 1219 and during the siege of the Swedish fortress of Landskron in 1301. Some historians claim that there was a Greek fire in service with Tamerlane.
The flame has gone out
The most recent mention of the application of the brainchild of Kallinikos dates back to 1453, when Mehmed the Second Conqueror tried to take Constantinople. Fiery "roosters" then flew towards each other. At both sides. Both the Byzantines and the Turks used it. Greek fire slowly began to fade with the appearance of gunpowder and firearms in the European arsenal. Yes, and there was no longer the same power in him that was fed by mystery. As soon as the Byzantine secret became public domain, interest in the invention disappeared, and the recipe for the mixture was lost.
Attempts to raise fire
Of course, the modern world does not need Greek fire, having a thousand times more efficient technologies. But the lost secret of the Byzantines has been worrying the minds of scientists for many centuries in a row. How to make a Greek fire? The search for an answer to this question continues to this day. How did the Greek fire come about? What recipe was used to make it? There are many versions. If you look at the records of the past years, then the following options appear:
- Byzantine princess and historian in one person, Anna Komlen in the 12th century claimed that the fire was made from resin, sulfur and tree sap.
- In the Arabic manuscript of the same time, tar, sulfur, and tar are listed among the ingredients.
- The alchemist Vincentius in the 13th century stated that the mixture included molten sulfur, tar, vegetable juice, turpentine and pigeon droppings.
- In Germany, 19th century salt, tar, sulfur, burnt lime and asphalt were considered components.
Many alchemists and scientists tried to find the secret components. For example, the French chemist Dupre in 1758 loudly announced that he was able to recreate the Greek fire. Of course, he did not immediately believe. And they demanded to prove it. In the vicinity of Le Havre, a wooden sloop was set up at a sufficiently large distance from the coast. Dupre was able to burn it with his invention. The French king Louis XV was impressed by the spectacle and bought from the chemist his work and all the drawings for a fabulous sum. He also took an oath from him that he would forget about his invention. Then the king destroyed all the papers.
Modern researchers have two main versions. The first of these is based on the knowledge of the Byzantine alchemist Mark Grek, who claimed that it was only with the help of nitrate that Greek fire could be created. The composition, in addition to this ingredient, contained tar, oil and sulfur. It was the saltpeter that was responsible for the “exit of fire”. She heated up, it began a violent reaction, which tore the balloon. Proponents of this version are inclined to believe that the capacity was set on fire even before the flight - right on the ship. After which the cylinder "shot" and destroyed the Greek fire enemies.
Recipe number two: oil, lime and sulfur with a resin in the role of a thickener. Cocktail was placed in a balloon, which was set on fire before you start. Either the container broke when in contact with water (due to lime, which has a vigorous reaction with water).
Unfortunately, none of the options are officially approved. Common sense suggests that the second is more truthful, because saltpeter appeared in Europe later than the Greek fire. In addition, it is difficult to imagine that the Byzantines, heating the balloon, burned a fire on a wooden deck ... But nothing can be said. Born under the cover of secrecy, the fire continues to be a dark horse for everyone until now.