Greek Fire, The Most Powerful Weapon Of Byzantine Army

4606 words - 19 pages

"War is the father of all things."1 Volkman begins his book, Science Goes to War, with this quote from Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher. Volkman uses the quote to suggest that many, if not all, scientific advancements owe their birth to the desire for or the fear of war. Fire is undoubtedly a part of this advancement as Bert Hall points out, "Fire is one of the primordial forces of nature, and incendiary weapons have had a place in armies' toolkits for almost as long as civilized states have made war."2 Of all the tools at the disposal of the Byzantine Empire's military, the 'so called' Greek fire was the most important.3

Greek fire was a weapon system that allowed Byzantine ships, as early as the seventh century, to spew fire at its enemies. On the ship's prow was the head of a lion or some other monstrosity, cast in brass or iron. In it's mouth was a bronze siphon that could swivel back and forth.4 The flaming liquid that spewed from this siphon came with the roaring sound and a black cloud of smoke. What makes it worse is that it even burns while in water.5 The fear it instilled in enemies sometimes egged men in full plate armor to leap in the water, knowing they will be dragged down to the bottom simply because drowning was preferable to being burned alive.6

Such an awe-inspiring beast of a weapon was already predisposed to legend and rumor. However, even as cinematic as Greek fire was, its cloud of ambiguity is, frankly, ridiculous. Put as accurately and elegantly as possible, Greek fire was "a misnomer wrapped in a misconception, confused in translation, veiled in secrecy, and embellished with apocrypha."7 At one point, one of the Byzantine emperors wrote in a letter to his son that Greek fire "was revealed and taught by God through an angel to the great and holy Constantine, the first Christian emperor."8 Say what you will about religion, but not even contemporary historians agree with that account, as will be addressed below.

It's impossible to move forward with any discussion of Greek fire without first discussing what the words even mean. As Alex Roland notes, "The Arabs, Bulgars, Russians, and others who were reported to have experienced the real Greek fire would never have called it that, for they looked upon the Byzantines not as Greeks, but as Romans. "Roman fire" is in fact one of the original names of the weapon."9 The Byzantines themselves called their pride and joy "variously "marine fire," "liquid fire," "prepared fire," "artificial fire." For the major part, the term, Greek fire, seems to have been a western term. Even still, for the West, it was a catch all term for any Eastern incendiary weapon.10 When the Crusaders came East and saw all this fire on the battlefield, how were they to tell the difference between what the Arabs used, what the Turks used, and what the Byzantines used? Especially when there was supposedly a lighter, hand-pumped version, and another that worked like a blowpipe. 11 However, while...

Find Another Essay On Greek Fire, the Most Powerful Weapon of Byzantine Army

The Fall of the Byzantine Empire

1093 words - 4 pages The Byzantine Empire followed after the Roman Empire fell. Before the Roman Empire fell, The Byzantine was considered part Eastern Roman Empire which covered the southeast part of Europe, as well as West Asia. The Byzantine Empire began as the city of Byzantium, which had grown from the ancient Greek colony founded on the European side of the Bosporus. The city was then taken in AD 330 by Constantine 1, who re-founded it as Constinople. When

The Rise Of The Nuclear Weapon Into A Political Weapon

1370 words - 5 pages During last 50 years of development, the nuclear bomb, as the ultimate weapon became the peacekeeping force on the earth. The nuclear bomb was developed in Manhattan project during the WW II and was successfully tested in the New Mexico on July 16 1945. At this point started the change of nuclear weapon from ultimate weapon to political weapon. USA decided to use the atomic bomb to defeat Japan in order to save around 500.000 lives of American

The Power of Symbolism in Byzantine Art

3098 words - 12 pages , Vikan, p. 81), remained in the service of theology as an educational component to the proliferation of the Orthodox Church. After the fall of Constantinople, the basic canons of Byzantine art have remained viable, even to the present day, in the Orthodox Church continuing the abstract and symbolic imagery meant to evoke spiritual elevation and divine contemplation in the viewer. In Byzantine art one can discover the wealthiest and most complex

The Army of Potomac

1247 words - 5 pages their capital as our own!” Most of the men remained silent, and some of the men cheered -but even their cheers were half hearted. War was not a pleasant game. “Burnside had ordered us across the bridge into Fredericksburg,” he continued. “We need to have faith” And that was all. The army replied with silence and we prepared. We reloaded our weaponry, adjusted our assets… and made our way to the riverside. We knew that the Confederates were

The most powerful leaded to plague man kind: Adolf Hitler

1092 words - 4 pages annihilate the Jews and any other opposing race for that matter. Using any means necessary to rid his enemy of life. So a mighty ruler by the name of Adolf Hitler, led his powerful German army into World War II. Hitler's square black mustache and the lock of hair that hung down on his forehead made him resemble a comic book character to some people. However, his fiery words and big blue eyes seemed to hypnotize those that listened and followed

The Ethics of Weapon and Military Research

2723 words - 11 pages took over France and most of Europe. The Nazis did not achieve this because they had tremendous numbers but because their technologies and fighting styles were greatly superior. The Nazis tanks and airplanes were faster and more powerful compared to the countries around them. The British were able to hold off the Nazis because they were able to compete with them on the same technological scale. The British had radar and were able to detect

The Force of a Nuclear Weapon

1326 words - 5 pages powerful force that is released instaneously as the weapon detonates. The quickest traveling form of energy known to man, being light, is released in the form of photons and neutronic radiation. About eighty percent of the light seen from a distance is photons that have been released in tightly packed bundles. For this reason they can blind a person up to ten miles away from the outer most destructive forces of the bomb. More specifically the

Food: The Greatest Weapon of All

1618 words - 6 pages In President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress on October 31, 1943 he said “Food is as important as any other weapon in the successful prosecution of the war. It will be equally important in rehabilitation and relief in the liberated areas, and in shaping the peace that is to come" (Thomas). While The United States was able to over produce foodstuffs to help its Allies, Germany and Japan had many problems feeding its soldiers and citizens. The

Unions Weapon of the 21st Century: Education

1508 words - 6 pages . However, they still will be un-knowledgeable about the functions of grievance handling, collective bargaining, being a union steward or even the duties of a local union leader. Because of this misfortune, most newly organized members, and a lot of experienced members have been left uneducated about the basics of unionism. Up to now many of the experienced members education has been in the form of technical training, or they have had to

History of the Byzantine Era and Significance Today

2361 words - 9 pages this controversy in his book The Mystagogia of the Holy Spirit. Photius’ historical importance was achieved not only in philosophy and scholarship, but also in religion. Unlike Photius, whose writing is most helpful in the area of intellectual understanding of the Byzantine Empire’s achievements, other writers are more helpful in their reporting of biographical, legal, and geographical issues. The writings of Procopius illustrate and record the

The Lake of Fire

2682 words - 11 pages out of context by those who claim that a believer can lose his salvation and end up in the Lake of Fire. Scripture quotations taken form the New American Standard Bible, NASB, unless otherwise noted. What is the Lake of Fire? According to The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, the Lake of Fire is synonymous with the Greek term Gehen’na, which carries the same meaning. The word Gehen’na in the Hebrew language is Hinnom. The Hebrew word Hinnom

Similar Essays

Globalization: A Powerful Weapon Of The United States

3751 words - 15 pages Introduction On the 17th of December 2010 a young street vendor from Tunisia, frustrated, set himself on fire, and died a few weeks later as an infliction of this self-immolation. Mohamed Bouazizi became a symbol of freedom, and his later death was dubbed as part of a group of "heroic martyrs of a new Middle Eastern revolution."1 These young men and women, whose pictures and names became national icons, were from all over the Arab world. They

One Of The Most Realiable Source In Byzantine Humanism

1530 words - 6 pages Anna trying to defend her role as a historian, and lamenting about how unfortunate she was, allow her to give a reflection of herself as an admirable historian and dutiful daughter. Sewter revised the edition of The Alexiad, places within the tradition of the Byzantine Historiography, to effectively demonstrate her emulation of her predecessors, subjects and here innovations. This draws from a cultural intellectual development, which arose

Which Eu Institution Is The Most Powerful?

2698 words - 11 pages Which EU institution is the most powerful? The European Union (EU) is currently made up of 25 countries, known as Member States, which together form the largest voluntary and peaceful block of countries in the world. Many people mistakenly view the European Union as a single body whilst in fact; the EU consists of a number of different institutions that together carry out activities on behalf of the Member States. There are many

From 1790 To 1857, The Supreme Court Emerged As The Most Powerful Branch Of Our Government.

1139 words - 5 pages From 1790 to 1857, the Supreme Court emerged as the most powerful branch of our government.I agree with the above statement. The US Supreme Court started slowly as a branch of our government, but by 1857 it emerged as the most powerful branch. The Presidency and the Executive branch certainly can create things, implement new ideas and have a large impact on all the citizens' lives. The Congress as the legislative branch can establish or change