In ancient Greece, fire was always revered. Many legends are associated with him and his prey, which are known in our day. The god of fire in Greek mythology Hephaestus, who was the husband of the beautiful Aphrodite, was revered by people in almost the same way as Zeus. Everyone remembers the story of Prometheus, who stole the fire and gave it to people. The Greek god of fire was angered by arbitrariness and punished the titan. But his last mission fulfilled, people learned to warm up by the fire and cook food.
The God of fire in Greek mythology was described as a mighty lame blacksmith, who day and night poked iron in his cave. One of the ancient legends says that it was in his forge that the famous Greek fire was made. Then Hephaestus presented it to the priests who worshiped him. Perhaps, there was not and in the world of invention more phenomenal than Greek fire. Many centuries ago he induced animal horror at enemies, but still does not give rest to people.
Prototypes of Greek fire
According to historians, something similar to Greek fire was seen in the 5th century BC during the Peloponnesian War. During the battle between Athenian and Boeotian armies under Delia, one of the parties used a strange kind of weapon: a flat 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 from the besieged city of the Athenians.
A little later, the ancient Greeks created a flamethrower, which fired a clean flame. As fuel, most likely, charcoal was used, which was pushed out by the force of air. He was pumped through the bellows. Of course, these inventions were far from the real Greek fire, but who knows if they were the basis for the future "thunderstorm of the Middle Ages"?
History of creation
On the question of who invented the Greek fire, almost all the chroniclers answer unequivocally: the mechanic Callinicos is a native of the Syrian Heliopolis, who flew to the Byzantines when the Arabs occupied his hometown. This refugee had an excellent service to his new homeland and entered the world history forever. And it was as follows: in 673 the Arabs went with the sword against Christians. They managed to reach Cilicia, at that time referred to Byzantium. There they hibernated and in the spring they moved on.
Emperor Constantine the Fourth learned about the approach of the enemy army and began to prepare for defense. That's where the mechanic Callinicos came in handy. The refugee, already affected by the Arabs, did not really want to meet with them again. And he decided to help Byzantium, giving Constantine his invention - a liquid siphon breathing liquid fire.
The Emperor accepted the offering with gratitude. Under the guidance of the Syrians, a large number of such siphons were created, they were equipped with ships. When the Arabian fleet came up, they poured hot glow on it, instantly burning the tree. The remnants of the enemy army in panic left the battlefield ... And the Byzantines rejoiced. Still would! Now they felt powerful and invincible. The invention of the Greek fire marked a golden era in the history of the empire.
The production of "fire-breathing siphons" was put on a broad footing. Realizing all the value of weapons, the Byzantine rulers held the recipe for the preparation of Greek fire in great secrecy. One of the emperors even said that the fire was given by the Angel, who set the condition: no other people should receive it.
This became a state secret, and for disclosure to anyone threatened with a sure death, whether it was a slave or the son of an emperor. However, ordinary Byzantines also could not learn, how the Greek fire prepares. After all, they did it in secret laboratories, under seven locks. And the heirs of the throne from the early years inspired the importance of silence.
So, for example, Constantine the Seventh wrote in his will to his son: "Your main task is to take care of the Greek fire. For it was created by the Angel specially for Byzantium. And if someone will ask you for a prescription, refer to the angelic ban. " And on the throne in the temple, by the order of this emperor, the text of the curse was cut out, which was supposed to fall on the one who would reveal the secret. Severe measures have worked, and this secret Byzantines managed to save several centuries. And those wishing to find out the recipe was oh so much!
Loud fire of victory
The first use of the Greek fire made a lot of noise in the Muslim world. When the Arabs, more than forty years after the defeat, moved to Byzantium again and again were burned, mysterious weapons began to go around legends. Restless conquerors tried to seize Constantinople six decades later - in 882. But this trip ended for them deplorable. Shortly before the third attempt of the Arabs - in 872 - the Byzantines fought back from the Cretan army and burned 20 enemy ships.
And in 941, "in the teeth" was the Russian prince Igor, who planned to go to the rich war of Constantinople. And in 1043 his "feat" was repeated by another ruler of Kievan Rus - Vladimir. That's when they started talking about the Greek fire in the whole civilized world. And rushed to Byzantium messengers from the Slavs, Muslims, Europeans ... But neither cunning, nor bribery, nor kinship ties, no one succeeded in achieving the desired.
One of the legends
State secrets were kept as the apple of the eye. The authorities even spread one legend. It described the high-ranking Byzantine nobleman whom the Arabs offered a huge sum of gold for issuing a prescription. He agreed and had to give the enemies the drawings of the throwing device and the composition of the Greek fire. Before he went to a meeting 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 huge sin.
Description and use of miracle fire
The adaptation of the Byzantines was an oblong metal vessel, cast (presumably) of bronze. An inflammable mixture was poured into the tube, and the vessel was firmly clogged. During the battle, a special throwing machine threw it at the enemy. From the vessel, with a terrible roar and noise, a fire burst out, 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, having got on the deck of the enemy ship, he immediately turned the tree into ashes. How the "eruption" happened, the scientists have not yet found out. Studies continue to this day.
At the first stages of its existence, Greek fire was used only during sea battles. And although the early flamethrowers were not perfect (they pitched vessels for short distances-a maximum of 25 meters, they could not be used in a strong headwind, etc.), even the mention of this weapon was terrifying for the soldiers. Which, by the way, had a more psychological explanation. People were afraid of the Greek fire, because they did not understand its nature, they considered it to be something mystical, beyond the reach ... But it was worth to retire to a distance of more than 25 meters, and no gods would help the fire to overtake the victim.
A little about terms
It should be noted that the Byzantines did not call the fire Greek. They did not consider themselves Greeks, but were called Romans. They called it simply fire. And other peoples of which only epithets were not invented. Historians managed to find references to the sea fire, and the liquid, and the living, and the fire of the Romans. Later, when the weapons burst beyond Byzantium, the Muslims called fire naphtha. However, as they called all the incendiary compounds used during the battles.
Perfection of Greek fire
Time passed, the war did not end, the Byzantines improved their secret weapons. So, 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 pernicious flame burst out like from the mouth of a mythical animal. This intensified the panic among superstitious enemies.
Around the beginning of the second millennium, the Greek fire, a photo of which can be seen in this article, was used not only on the sea, but also on land, inventing hand siphons. With their help, for example, a fire was set on the walls of besieged cities, a wooden gate, and even a living force. A light portable device made it possible to splash a deadly cocktail directly into the enemy's face during a close combat.
Fire outside Byzantium
No matter how hard the Byzantines tried to keep the secret of preparing Greek fire in secret, but the moment came when the bird flew out of the cage. After five centuries of strict secrecy, a traitor was found. It happened in 1210, when the Byzantine emperor Alexis the Third was deprived of the throne. He was forced to flee his native country and found shelter in the Koni Sultanate. Just eight years after his flight, the Arabs used Greek fire in a battle with the Crusaders. And soon the technology was mastered by the Slavs, using it during the attack of the Bulgarian Osshel 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 went out
The most recent mention of the use of the child of Callinicos dates back to 1453, when Mehmed the Second Conqueror tried to take Constantinople. Fire "cocks" flew then meet each other. At both sides. Both Byzantines and Turks used it. Greek fire slowly began to fade with the appearance in the arsenal of Europeans gunpowder and firearms. And there was no longer in him the former power, which was nourished by mystery. As soon as the Byzantine secret became the public domain, interest in the invention disappeared, and the recipe for the mixture was lost.
Attempts to resurrect the 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 worries 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 turn out? By what recipe was it prepared? There are many versions. If you look at the records of the past years, then pop up such options:
- Byzantine princess and historian in one person Anna Comnen in the 12th century claimed that fire is prepared from tar, sulfur and wood juice.
- In the Arabic manuscript of the same time among the ingredients listed tar, sulfur and resin.
- Alchemist Vincentius in the 13th century said that the mixture includes molten sulfur, tar, vegetable juice, turpentine and pigeon droppings.
- In Germany in the 19th century, components were salt, resin, sulfur, burnt lime and asphalt.
Search for a recipe
Many secret alchemists and scientists tried to find the secret components. For example, the French chemist Dupree in 1758 loudly announced that he had managed to recreate the Greek fire. Of course, he was not immediately credited. And they demanded to prove it. In the vicinity of Le Havre, a wooden sloop was placed at a sufficiently large distance from the shore. Dupree 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 hours and all the drawings for a fabulous sum. Also took from him an oath that he will forget about his invention. After that, the king destroyed all the papers.
Modern researchers, however, have two main versions. The first of them is based on the information of the Byzantine alchemist Mark Greek, who claimed that only with the help of saltpeter it was possible to create a Greek fire. The composition, in addition to this ingredient, contained resin, oil and sulfur. It was saltpeter who was responsible for the "exit of fire". It heated up, it began a violent reaction, which tore the balloon. Supporters of this version tend to believe that the tank was set on fire before the flight - right on the ship. Then the balloon "fired", and the enemies destroyed the Greek fire.
Recipe number two: oil, lime and sulfur with resin as a thickener. The cocktail was placed in a cylinder, which was set on fire before starting. Or, the capacity was ruptured when it came into contact with water (due to lime, which has a violent reaction with water).
Unfortunately, none of the options are officially approved. Common sense suggests that the second is more truthful, because saltpetre appeared in Europe later than the Greek fire. In addition, it is difficult to imagine that the Byzantines, heating the cylinder, burned a fire on a wooden deck ... But nothing can be said. Born under the cover of secrecy, fire continues to be a dark horse for everyone so far.