Current theories on Greek fire

What are the current theories on Greek fire? Is it still a ‘lost weapon’, or have we figured it out? Could someone construct it today?

Encyclopædia Britannica

Greek Fire

1 oz Metaxa 5*
2 oz Ouzo
1 oz Gin
3 oz Blood Orange Juice

Mix the ingredients all together, shake with ice, strain.

Cece wrote an article about this, but for some reason I cannot now find it.

Interesting… How does the Britannica suppose the ancient Greeks isolated elemental sodium, lithium, or potassium? Being highly reactive, none occur in the elemental form naturally, and the only way I am aware to produce them involves electrolysis through a molten salt of one of the them…

As for quicklime (calcium oxide), what is it supposed to do?

[Cough, Cough!] Could someone explain to me (and the rest of the uninformed) what the heck “Greek Fire” is in the first place!?!? Then we can more deeply mourn the loss of the recipe.

Excerpts from two different articles:

Encyclopædia Britannica


You could have found this yourself at

Greek fire was a flammable substance hurled by soldiers and sailors in battle. It was the ancient version of napalm.

Only linking because I asked the same question.

Quicklime has a violent reaction when it comes in contact with water, much like lithium and sodium do. Now if the ancients could get their hands on Francium…

The Greeks with radioisotopes? Sounds like a Civilization game where someone had far too many advances…

No one really knows. It appears the the book referenced
in the first article listed would give you the most complete info.
Parts of articles found below

“Greek Fire was the secret weapon of the Eastern Roman Emperors. It is said to have been invented by a Syrian Engineer, one Callinicus, a refugee from Maalbek, in the seventh century (673 AD). The “liquid fire” was hurled on to the ships of their enemies from siphons and burst into flames on contact. As it was reputed to be inextinguishable and burned even on water, it caused panic and dread. Its introducation into warfare of its time was comparable in its demoralizing influence to the introducation of nuclear weapons in our time. Both Arab and Greek sources agree that it surpassed all incendiary weapons in destruction. The secret behind the Greek fire was handed down from one emperor to the next for centuries. Rumors about its composition include such chemicals as liquid petroleum, naphtha, burning pitch, sulphur, resin, quicklimeand bitumen, along with some other “secret ingredient”. The exact composition, however, remains unknown. For a thorough investigation of the weapon one can refer to Professor J.R. Partington’s book, “A history of the Greek Fire and Gunpowder”, Heffer, 1960. This volume quotes the ancient authorities extensively, with an excellent commentary. It also examines ancient and modern theories on the composition of the chemicals used in the Greek Fire. This is considered the most up to date source on the subject.”

…“but it was not until the 7th century that Greek fire was invented, presumably by Callinicus (fl. about 620-73), an Egyptian architect who had fled from Syria during the Muslim invasions. The formula was closely guarded as a state secret for many centuries by the Byzantine Empire. The exact composition of Greek fire is still disputed, but it was probably composed of a mixture of flammable materials such as sulfur and pitch on a petroleum base, allowing it to float and continue burning on water. This jellylike mixture was sprayed on the enemy from tubes through which it was forced under pressure by pumps.”

…“In an earlier era it was a deadly mixture called Greek Fire, composed of lime, various oxides of iron, bioxides of manganese, pyrites and amalgams, sulfur and pitch. Greek Fire was the great secret weapon of the Byzantines and was used in one form or another for over a thousand years. Greek Fire was thrown onto enemy troops by catapults or from castle parapets, making it literally ‘fire from heaven’.”

“Gunpowder was not invented by any one; it was the
lineal successor of the Greek fire, which, like itself, was
composed of sulfur and saltpeter.”
Muslims Attack Constantinople 717-718

Perhaps the main reason for the successful defense of Constantinople was the recent development of Greek Fire. As such, it is necessary to take an in-depth look at the phenomenon, which may have saved the Byzantine Empire from the attack of the Arabs. Greek Fire was a secret weapon of the Byzantine Empire; so secret was this weapon that little is known about the specifics of it to this day. It is rumored to have been developed by Syrian engineer, Callinicus, in 673. The “liquid fire” was shot out of pressurized bronze tubes, which were mounted on the prows of their galleys and on the walls of Constantinople. When Arab ships were hit, they would burst into flames on contact. This could be considered a type of primitive flame-thrower. The secret composition of Greek Fire was handed down through successions of emperors. Although still unknown, it is believed that it was composed of chemicals such as liquid petroleum, naphtha, burning pitch, sulfur, resin, quicklime and bitumen. There was also some other secret ingredient.