Byzantine Hand Grenade with Circular Designs

£ 230.00

A Byzantine earthenware hand grenade featuring a hollow bulbous body with a pointed base. To the top, the vessel raises into a short neck and splays out slightly into a thick rim with a small mouth. Part of the shoulder and rim have been flattened during the production process. The small aperture to the top 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 geometric patterns to its outer surface. A large groove runs horizontally across the body allowing for a secure grip to the vessel. A series of circles in slightly different sizes frame the groove. The geometric composition ends with a fine carved band which runs twice around the vessel.

Date: Circa 9th-11th century AD
Provenance: From a collection of a North London gentleman, latterly with a London gallery.
Condition: Very good condition. Some earthy encrustations on the surface.


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

Weight 518.9 g
Dimensions L 10.9 x W 9 cm


Pottery and Porcelain