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The Greek fire

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Greek Fire, or Sea Fire

Liquid fire. It is also called "Greek fire", "Sea fire ", "Persian fire "

Greek, or liquid fire The Byzantines' most important weapon, which played a decisive role in all naval operations, was "Greek" or "liquid fire". It consisted of a developed recipe of older chemical compounds attributed to Kallinikos, a 7th-century Greek engineer from Helioupolis in Syria. Liquid fire contained sulphur, nitrogen, and naphtha (petrol) and other substances and put fear into the enemy fleet, since it burnt even on water.

Byzantine pump for the Lyquid Fire, or the Greek Fire

Byzantine pump for "liquid fire" (reconstruction)

This chemical compound was kept as a state secret. The emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennitos, addressing his son and heir Romanes, stressed the secret nature of the composition even stating that it should not be learnt by allies.

He continues: "the ingredi­ents were disclosed by an angel to the first great Christian emperor, Constan­tine ... and that great emperor, wishing to secure the secret for his successors, ordained that they should curse, in writing and on the Holy Altar of the Church of God, any who should dare to give this fire to another nation, that he should not be counted amongst the Christians, neither should he hold any rank or honour and if he happens to have one already, let him be deposed and paraded like a common criminal throughout the centuries, whether he be an emperor, a patriarch or any other lord or subject; whosoever should attempt to disobey this order." The liquid fire was kept in storehouses of the capital and at various strategic locations. Its constituents were kept secret for many centuries, until the Arabs learnt them.

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