A Byzantine earthenware hand grenade featuring a hollow bulbous body with a pointed base. To the top, the vessel leads to a short neck and splays out slightly into 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 concentric geometric patterns to its outer surface in a series of thick bands bands close to the neck and below the grip. There are a few chips around the body.
The stand is for reference only.
Date: Circa 9th-11th century AD Condition: Good Condition, minor chips and markings to the body, some earth encrustation
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. These ceramic explosive jars became popular during the crusades (11th – 13th century AD) and were used until the Mamluk era (13th – 16th century AD)
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