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View Full Version : Gunpowder invented by Byzantium instead of Greek fire.


trajen777
November 10th, 2007, 03:25 PM
What would have been the impact of this if the Byzantines had kept it a secret (like Greek fire) and used tubes for cannon (like the tubes for Greek fire). Siege artillery, grenades, and explosive arrows (like Greek fire)

My Thoughts:
- Better navy
- Ability to more easily capture fortresses in the recon quest by Nicophoris, John, and Basil thereby allowing for a faster conquest of eastern Anatolia, Aleppo, Crete, and other fortress cities
- Ability to better defend cities
- Ability to have some superior face to face battles

doug
November 10th, 2007, 03:58 PM
well. the Byzantines would not only have to invent "greek powder," but also a means to deploy it effectively. in OTL, there was quite a span of time between the Chinese invention of gunpowder to the invention of firearms.

for quite some time it was used for rockets and hand-held "bursters" that sprayed smoke and noxious substances on the enemy, rather than propel iron or stone projectiles. I figure the tubes the Byzantines used to deploy Greek fire were similar in structure to these. it seems likely that Greek fire might have been more militarily effective than the gunpowder devices that the Byzantines could come up with early on.

building a cannon takes good metallurgical skills. the invention of gunpowder could accelerate the process, but it seems likely that it would still take a while.

M79
November 10th, 2007, 04:07 PM
Never mind that if the Arabs get a hold of gunpowder/cannonry they would have a much easier time taking Christian strongholds too. Heck, Byzantium might fall in 1100 instead of 1453.

On the other hand, you *could* have Greek Fire kick off a serious interset in chemistry, which might give gunpowder and cannons just in time for Basil II or Manuel I (among other things). Imagine how much farther either could go with early artillery at their backs:eek:!

doug
November 10th, 2007, 04:54 PM
On the other hand, you *could* have Greek Fire kick off a serious interset in chemistry, which might give gunpowder and cannons just in time for Basil II or Manuel I (among other things).

I was thinking that myself - burster/sprayer devices using gunpowder to ignite and spray Greek fire. probably one heck of a galley warfare weapon

The Federation
November 10th, 2007, 05:39 PM
If they could use gunpowder to fire and detonate a Greek Fire-based shell with metal shards or broken pottery, it could be an unstoppable weapon.

Imagine being a Turkish soldier as fire rains down towards your head and little pieces you can't see rip apart possibly hundreds of men if they're lined up tight. Just the morale effect would be deadly on any enemy.

It could've changed history if deployed effectively.

Riain
November 10th, 2007, 07:28 PM
How much use did Greek Fire get on land? Did fortifications have their own Greek Fire projectors for defence? Did Byzantine seige weapons fire Greek Fire projectiles? Did field artillery?__________ Secondly, working cannon were used by the English in the 1340s, why didn't the Byzantines adopt them in their final century of existence? Would cannon mean that they Byzantines could attack the Turks during this century while the Turks were distracted or in disarray? Or would they allow them to withstand the siege?

carlton_bach
November 10th, 2007, 07:44 PM
Imagine being a Turkish soldier as fire rains down towards your head and little pieces you can't see rip apart possibly hundreds of men if they're lined up tight. Just the morale effect would be deadly on any enemy.


Well, that was really pretty much like it was. Morale effects are not long-lasting, and while an earlier invention of gunsd would be majorly significant, it is unlikely to give Byzantium a monopoly on the weapon. OTL, the Turks had the better artillery anyway, and 'Greek Fire' too, leaked out relatively soon - certainly sooner than the tech progression from early incendiary charges to viable siege artillery requires.

doug
November 10th, 2007, 08:37 PM
How much use did Greek Fire get on land? Did fortifications have their own Greek Fire projectors for defence? Did Byzantine seige weapons fire Greek Fire projectiles? Did field artillery?__________ Secondly, working cannon were used by the English in the 1340s, why didn't the Byzantines adopt them in their final century of existence? Would cannon mean that they Byzantines could attack the Turks during this century while the Turks were distracted or in disarray? Or would they allow them to withstand the siege?

The only examples of Greek fire usage I can recall were at sea, against enemy galleys, projected through tubes. I don't remember any hollow projectiles fired from siege engines carrying Greek fire.

AFAIK, 14th Century artillery was primitive, expensive and primarily a siege weapon. By this point, the Byzantines were not rich and were not in an offensive posture, where it would be useful to put a lot of money into cannon.

As far as the Byzantines withstanding the final siege of Constantinople goes, I don't think counterbattery fire was effective enough at this point where if the Greeks had cannon, they could have prevented the Turks from breaching the walls.

Thande
November 10th, 2007, 09:51 PM
Unless I'm misremembering, the Byzantines also used Greek fire as an anti-siege weapon fired from fortresses, to set enemy siege towers on fire and that sort of thing. Don't think they found an offensive use for it on land, though.

The Federation
November 11th, 2007, 04:25 AM
Well, that was really pretty much like it was. Morale effects are not long-lasting, and while an earlier invention of gunsd would be majorly significant, it is unlikely to give Byzantium a monopoly on the weapon. OTL, the Turks had the better artillery anyway, and 'Greek Fire' too, leaked out relatively soon - certainly sooner than the tech progression from early incendiary charges to viable siege artillery requires.

Didn't the Chinese get Greek fire at one point? How'd that work?

They wouldn't have a monopoly on the weapon, but if they could just use it occasionally, it could've made a huge difference. If they had it at Manzikert, the Turks could've been forced out of their ambush position into open combat.

Sargon
November 11th, 2007, 04:25 AM
Unless I'm misremembering, the Byzantines also used Greek fire as an anti-siege weapon fired from fortresses, to set enemy siege towers on fire and that sort of thing. Don't think they found an offensive use for it on land, though.

I seem to recall that it was used on land as well and that Byzantine armies did deploy it from time to time in conventional battles.


Sargon

Riain
November 11th, 2007, 05:13 AM
The Arabs and the Chinese did both use Greek Fire, only the backward Europeans didn't use it. Funnily enough the Byzantines kept the formula a secret but not the projector machinery, in contast the Arabs kept the projector technology a secret but not the recipie.

Sargon
November 11th, 2007, 05:44 AM
The Arabs and the Chinese did both use Greek Fire, only the backward Europeans didn't use it. Funnily enough the Byzantines kept the formula a secret but not the projector machinery, in contast the Arabs kept the projector technology a secret but not the recipie.

Well, the Byzantines did have items captured from time to time. When the Bulgar Khan Krum captured Mesembria in 812, he laid his hands on 36 syphons for projecting the stuff along with the local stocks of it. The records don't reveal much about whether he was able ever to employ the stuff, and if he did, whether he as able to use it well enough that it did not harm his own troops. It was difficult stuff to handle, and sometimes could be just as dangerous for the people using it as those it was being directed against.


Sargon

carlton_bach
November 11th, 2007, 07:04 AM
Unless I'm misremembering, the Byzantines also used Greek fire as an anti-siege weapon fired from fortresses, to set enemy siege towers on fire and that sort of thing. Don't think they found an offensive use for it on land, though.

One manuscript - I think it's a POliorketika - shows a handprojector used from a siege tower in the attack on a city. Generally speaking, Greek Fire fits the role, but its applications are pretty limited.

carlton_bach
November 11th, 2007, 07:17 AM
Didn't the Chinese get Greek fire at one point? How'd that work?

They wouldn't have a monopoly on the weapon, but if they could just use it occasionally, it could've made a huge difference. If they had it at Manzikert, the Turks could've been forced out of their ambush position into open combat.

WE have to keepin mind that what we call 'Greek Fire' isn't a specific,m single weapon of devastating impact but a type of weapon that comresd in numerous forms and guises. Most likely, what the Byzantines called 'Seafire' was a mixture with some unusual properties (most likely including and oxidiser) that made it particularly useful for naval warfare. This weapon was kept secretr fore a while - we do not know exactly for how long, though apparently it was thought worthwhile to maintain secrecy until the tenth century. However, pyrotechnic mixtures of petroleum derivatives and various other ingredients were not a secret weapon, nor limited to the Byzantine world, but quite common in civilised parts of the world (which included Italy and Spain). They were, of course, dependent on a supply of the right ingredients and therefore not easily manufactured in areas away from oil wells, but there attempts were made to replicate the effect with local ingredients (cf. the recipes in the Mappae Clavicula, probably of Italian origin, using turpentine, colophony and other flammables). China may well have had its own indigenous tradition of pyrotechnic weaponry rather than borrowed from the West. Arab armies used 'naft', certainly by the time of the crusades but likely much earlier (so much untranslated material...). The term covers a multitude of sins, from simple crude oil to early gunpowder weapons, but it certainly described Greek-Fire-like stuff like that produced in an excavated 12th century workshop to fill pottery hand grenades. At that time, using fire weapons in land combat had become so normal that well-organised armies had specialists in protective clothing for the job. When exactly that came about is, unfortunately, still a bit iffy, but I very much doubt the Seljuq army at Manzikert would have run from Greek Fire any more than the Zulu army at Rourke's Drift from gunshots.

trajen777
November 12th, 2007, 11:55 AM
The Byzantines used Greek fire in many land campaigns but it was a difficult weapon. For example Justinian 2 used it in his Slav campaigns where he captured 40,000 enemies’ soldiers. Also fortifications used it often in defense. Perhaps a combination of gunpowder driven Greek fire or some better “flame thrower” would have been a more effective weapon.

I see the campaigns of John / Basil / Nicophoris being much more penetrating. John captured Damascus and Aleppo but was unable to capture the inner fortress. With these weapons he would have.