Byzantine Hand Grenade
A Byzantine earthenware hand grenade featuring a hollow bulbous body with a pointed base and a circular border. To the top, the vessel leads to a short neck surrounded by two concentric borders and a thick rim with a small mouth. This allowed the item to be filled with an explosive liquid known as ‘Greek fire’ and used as a hand grenade in battle. The mouth would have also accommodated a fuse to instigate the explosion. As typical for Byzantine grenades, this piece displays remnants of incised bands used to help with grip. Several horizontally lines feature across the middle section of the body, some of which have faded.
Stand is for reference only.
Circa 9th-11th century ADProvenance:
From a collection of a North London gentleman, latterly with a London gallery.Condition:
Good condition, earthy encrustations remain on the surface. Chips to the rim and body.
Greek Fire, also referred to as liquid fire (ὑγρόν πῦρ, hygron pyr), was one of the most famous weapons of the Byzantine arsenal and its use played a crucial role in the defence of the Empire, ensuring its long survival. The formula for the flammable mixture was closely guarded for centuries and irredeemably lost after the collapse of the Empire. Its precise composition thus remains unknown to this day, though research suggests that petroleum was a vital ingredient making the liquid impervious to water. Greek fire was first used at sea where it was particularly effective against wooden ships; it was later delivered via clay grenades, either by hand or by launching with a catapult.
To find out more about Byzantine hand grenades please see our relevant blog post: Byzantine Fire Grenades