Greek fire

Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.

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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
He said the Greek fires have shown, yet once more, the importance of timely intervention in order to prevent the wildfires from spreading.
The tale includes: Atlantis, ancient Jericho, an encoded letter of Saint Paul, an atomic bomb, the Nazis, Masonic symbols, Greek Fire, brain information transference, secret texts, a secret monastery, doomed submarines, text predicting the demise of the world.
London, May 21 (ANI): Eva Mendes is all geared up to play opera star Maria Callas is an upcoming biopic 'Greek Fire'.
A short but sharply argued chapter, "Leo VI and Naval Warfare," reviews the very limited surviving texts on Byzantine sea power and provides a lucid account of "Greek fire," the empire's much-misunderstood "secret weapon."
The use of fire, both in Greek fire and in undermining castle walls is the subject of one chapter.
A Greek fire brigade spokesman said that it was a very difficult fire as it raged in a mixed zone of residential areas and forest land and firemen had urged people to promptly evacuate the areas on fire to avoid risking their lives and help the fire brigade's efforts.
I sat down and did a 15-page proposal." His ensuing book, "Greek Fire," was published in 2000 and, like the story of his mother's death all those years ago in his native land, was quickly optioned for a movie.
This work succeeds in blending contemporary scholarly reinterpretations of Byzantine historical development with engaging explorations of monuments, events, and unique topics like Greek fire and eunuchs to make a strong case for Byzantium as a resilient and creative civilization throughout its long history.
GREEK FIRE: A policeman is covered in flames from a petrol bomb thrown by rioters in Athens
She has a deadly weapon known as Greek Fire, the ability to inflict deadly viruses on her enemies and a willingness to bring them to violent ends by any means available, including throwing them out of her helicopter.
Externally Byzantium was defended by a weapon better than American 'Star Wars' missiles are ever likely to be: 'Greek Fire', an oily mixture they spread over coastal waters and set alight whenever hostile fleets appeared.
Byzantium at the height of its power appears under such intriguing rubrics as Greek Fire, Eunuchs, Imperial Children, Basil the Bulgar-Slayer and, most appealing, Venice and the Fork (the fork-using Byzantines were much more sophisticated than their western allies or rivals who ate with their hands).