History of War: Greek Fire

General
05.11.2020

“It is stern work, it is perilous work, to thrust your hand in the sun

And pull out a spark of immortal flame to warm the hearts of men:

But Prometheus, torn by the claws and beaks whose task is never done,

Would be tortured another eternity to go stealing fire again.”

‘The Proud Poet’, Joyce Kilmer (1917)

 

In all of human history, few discoveries have been as important as that of fire. Both a versatile tool and a deadly weapon, fire continues to shape the fortunes of humankind with its potential to create, sustain, and destroy. As the United Kingdom celebrates Bonfire Night on November 5 with fiery festivities, join us as we delve into the ancient history that inspired the fire-based weapons and units featured in Season V: Legacy of Fire!

Prior to the events of Season V, King John of the Kingdom of Empyros commissioned his alchemists to create the liquid hellfire in order to maintain superiority over the Symmachean Brotherhood. This deadly composition fuels the weapons of the Zykalian Militia and the Siphonarioi.

As history buffs may have guessed, hellfire is actually based on Greek fire, a historic invention used by the Byzantine Greeks starting in the 7th century CE. This incendiary substance remained an instrumental weapon for the Byzantine Empire for over seven centuries, and its value was said to be so great that Emperor Romanos II declared Greek fire one of three things, alongside imperial regalia and royal princesses, that should never be allowed to fall into enemy hands.

Byzantine ships primarily used Greek fire in naval battles. Using a complex propulsion system, crews would jettison streams of the substance at enemy ships to start blazes which water had no effect on. In defence of the city of Constantinople, uncrewed ships laden with Greek fire were reportedly even sent upwind into the heart of enemy fleets to cause chaos from within. Wood and flesh burned alike in the undying flames, and the Byzantines leveraged this infamy and destructive power to safeguard their empire and Constantinople from centuries of sieges and repeated naval attacks.

Portable versions of the propulsion system used on Byzantine ships, much like the cheirosiphon (Greek for ‘hand siphon’) carried by the Siphonarioi units in Conqueror’s Blade, were later developed for use on land. Certain innovations led to further portability, with clay grenades being filled with Greek fire and thrown at enemies. Indeed, tzykalia is the Greek word for ‘clay pot’, with this particular iteration of the Byzantine weapon serving as the inspiration for the Zykalian Militia grenadiers in Conqueror’s Blade.

The secrets of Greek fire are now lost, as the weaponised liquid all but disappeared into the pages of history following the Fourth Crusade and the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 CE. However, stories of its potency and power continue to burn just as brightly.

Zykalian Militia Unit Challenges are now available in Conqueror’s Blade. The Siphonarioi Unit Challenges will be active from November 9.

Further Reading: ‘Greek Fire’ by Mark Cartwright, Ancient History Encyclopedia: https://www.ancient.eu/Greek_Fire