jueves, 20 de enero de 2011

Byzantine Greek fire hand-grenade

The first grenades appeared in the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, not long after the reign of Leo III (717-741). Byzantine soldiers learned that Greek fire, a Byzantine invention of the previous century, could not only be thrown by flamethrowers at the enemy, but also in stone and ceramic jars. Later, glass containers were employed. Byzantine hand grenades with Greek fire in the 10th to 12th centuries are on display in the National Museum at Athens. The use of Greek fire, or rather variants thereof, spread to Muslim armies in the Near East, from where it reached China by the 10th century.
Hand grenades filled with Greek fire; surrounded by caltrops. (10th-12th c. National Historical Museum, Athens, Greece)

Some medieval petards were small enough to be employed against enemy troops and be considered as primitive hand grenades.


5 handgrenades, so-called "Greek Fire", used by the defenders of Constantinople against the Turks. Late 15th, from Constantinople filled with Naptha equivalent to small incendiary grenades

sábado, 8 de enero de 2011



A working miniature reconstruction of an incendiary device from a book by Hassan-Al Rammah. Described as 'the egg which moves itself and burns', the text suggests that it moves across the surface of the water and was rocket-propelled.

The earliest torpedo was also first described in 1270 by Hasan al-Rammah in The Book of Military Horsemanship and Ingenious War Devices, which illustrated a torpedo running with a rocket system filled with explosive materials and having three firing points.Length 65cm (29 inches), width 33cm (13 inches).

I use this kind of powder as source of power


Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning even under water. It provided a technological advantage, and was responsible for many key Byzantine military victories, most notably the salvation of Constantinople from two Arab sieges, thus securing the Empire's survival. The impression made by Greek fire on the European Crusaders was such that the name was applied to any sort of incendiary weapon, including those used by Arabs, the Chinese, and the Mongols. These, however, were different mixtures and not the Byzantine formula, which was a closely guarded state secret, whose composition has now been lost. As a result, its ingredients are a much debated topic, with proposals including naphtha, quicklime, sulphur, and niter. What set the Byzantine usage of incendiary mixtures apart was their use of pressurized siphons to project the liquid onto the enemy.

Use of a cheirosiphōn ("hand-siphon"), a portable flamethrower, used from atop a flying bridge against a castle. Illumination from the Poliorcetica of Hero of Byzantium.
This is a less known weapon used in the middle ages by the Bizantine warriors against their enemies. I decided to build my own working miniature of this amazing weapon, next weekend I'll post a movie showing how this miniature works.


Incendiary and flaming weapons were used in warfare for centuries prior to the invention of Greek fire, including a number of sulphur-, petroleum- and bitumen-based mixtures. Incendiary arrows and pots containing combustible substances were used as early as the 9th century BC by the Assyrians, and were extensively used in the Greco-Roman world as well. Furthermore, Thucydides mentions the use of tubed flamethrowers in the siege of Delium in 424 BC. In naval warfare, the fleet of the Byzantine Emperor Anastasius I (r. 491–518) is recorded by the chronicler John Malalas as having utilized a sulphur-based mixture to defeat the revolt of Vitalian in AD 515, following the advice of a philosopher from Athens called Proclus.

Greek fire proper, however, was invented in ca. 672, and is ascribed by the chronicler Theophanes to Kallinikos, an architect from Heliopolis in the former province of Phoenice, by then overrun by the Muslim conquests. The historicity and exact chronology of this account is open to question: Theophanes reports the use of fire-carrying and siphon-equipped ships by the Byzantines a couple of years before the supposed arrival of Kallinikos at Constantinople. If this is not due to chronological confusion of the events of the siege, it may suggest that Kallinikos merely introduced an improved version of an established weapon. The historian James Partington further thinks it likely that Greek fire was not in fact the discovery of any single person, but "invented by chemists in Constantinople who had inherited the discoveries of the Alexandrian chemical school".Indeed, the 11th-century chronicler George Kedrenos records that Kallinikos came from Heliopolis in Egypt, but most scholars reject this as an error. Kedrenos also records the story, considered rather implausible, that Kallinikos' descendants, a family called "Lampros" ("Brilliant"), kept the secret of the fire's manufacture, and continued doing so to his day.

This flame-Thrower was described by the very known Athenian historian Thucydides, it was used for first time at the Peloponessian war 431 to 404 BC, it was an ancient war fought By Athens and its empire against the Peloponessian league led by Sparta.

viernes, 7 de enero de 2011


This is a little tutorial to show you how roman engineers used to retard the fire ignition on their siege engines.

Scale arquebus / arcabuz a escala

The arquebus (pronounced ɑr-kə-bus or -kwə-bus) (sometimes spelled harquebus, harkbus or hackbut; from Dutch haakbus, meaning "hook gun"), or "hook tube", is an early muzzle-loaded firearm used in the 15th to 17th centuries. The word was originally modelled on the German: Hakenbüchse, this produced haquebute. It then copied the Italian word: archibugio; which gave arquebuse (French), arcabuz (Spanish) and arquebus (English]. In distinction from its predecessor, the hand cannon, it has a matchlock. Like its successor, the musket, it is a smoothbore firearm, but it is lighter and easier to carry. It is a forerunner of the rifle and other longarm firearms. An improved version of the arquebus, the caliver, was introduced in the early 1500s. The word is derived from the English corruption of calibre as this gun was of standard bore, increasing combat effectiveness as troops could load bullets that would fit their guns (before, they would have to modify shot to fit, force it in or cast their own before the battle). Heavy arquebuses mounted on wagons were called arquebus à croc. These carried a ball of about 3.5 ounces

This is a working scale model

miércoles, 5 de enero de 2011

Medieval handgonnes

Handguns had developed considerably by the late fifteenth century. They began by mounting very small, culverin-like cannon on long staves (or stocks). These small guns were usually called 'cannon or culverin à main'. The gunner was called a coulevrinier. The earliest handguns had to be supported and were fired by a hand-held lit match being brought to the touchhole. Sometimes this was done by an assistant.

During the early fifteenth century the pole became shorter and took the form of a stock that rested on the gunner's shoulder, or under his arm. About mid century, the invention of the matchlock firing system allowed the hand-held weapon to be completely operated by one individual. Around the second quarter of the century, improvements in gunpowder made small guns firing lead bullets more effective. However, in the course of the Hundred Years' War no tactical innovations emerged that were unique to the weapon. Handguns were employed much like crossbows, which they were beginning slowly to replace.


My birthplace Guanajuto Mexico

Warwick castle England. All pics by Gary Hodgkinson

Royal Museum, Belgium. All pics by Everaert