Greek fire(redirected from Byzantine fire)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
Greek fire,a flammable composition believed to have consisted of sulfur, naphtha, and quicklime. Although known in antiquity, it was first employed on a large scale by the Byzantines. Bronze tubes that emitted jets of liquid fire were mounted on the prows of their galleys and on the walls of Constantinople. The Byzantines in 678 and again in 717–18 destroyed two Saracen fleets with Greek fire.
an incendiary mixture that was used in the seventh to 15th centuries in sea battles and during sieges of fortresses. Greek fire probably consisted of resin, rosin, sulfur, saltpeter, and other substances; its flame could not be extinguished by water. In 673 the Greeks, who had borrowed it from the Arabs, successfully used it in the defense of Constantinople. The ignited mixture was hurled at enemy ships in kegs and also from special copper tubes that were installed on the prow and sides of the ship. Until the 12th century the Greeks held a monopoly on the use of Greek fire in sea battles; later it began to be used in other fleets. With the appearance of firearms, Greek fire lost its importance.