How was Greek Fire made?

I was wondering about that. The Greeks used ships that had a very flammable, sticky substance that they would shoot at other ships. I saw this on a TLC program a few months back, and I forget the name. Supposedly, it would catch on fire just by contact with air. This seems implausiable though, considering sodium is the only thing I know of that does that(I know it actually reacts with the water in the air). The Greeks did not have a ready source of this. I have been trying to formulate it for a while(not to spread anarchy or burn stuuf! just curious) and I had limited success. Powdered charcoal and crisco work reasonably well, and lamp oil mixed with alchohol has a nice effect. What was the Greek’s secret? Again, just curious.

IIRC no one can say for certain. It’s like Plato’s book on comedy, know to have existed but lost to history.

My WAG would be some sort of mixture of high purity alcohol and pitch. If ignited as it’s pumped out, you should get an effect similar what is described.

Hello fearless leader! Will this weapon help us in our defense of Vancouver? :wink:

Encyclopædia Britannica article on greek fire

Yes, We must use this “Greek Fire” on the smelly French pigs!!! THen, we can have BBQ!!!

Set fire to the French? They’ll burn for months! Imagine the odor!


And what do you guys have against the French in this whole ordeal? The Gauls didn’t start anything with the Greeks.

Well, my government has declared war on the French. You will see it all right here( don;t feel like HTML today)

You can even sign up if ya want. We will need Greek fire for our warships.

I swear Cece did a bit on this, but I can’t find it.

We have most of the ingredients pretty well identified, with the exception of the air-exposed igniter. I vaguely recall reading that one Greek Fire “hose” was depicted with a suspicious-looking holder just below the mouth where the mixture is ejected. A torch holder, perhaps?

Here’s a quick little run-down, also with a drawing showing some sort of flange, this time on top of the hose.

There are several pyrophoric (ignite with contact to air) substances,but the most likely available to ancient Greeks would be Red Phosphorus.

Chief Wahoo,
Red phosphorous isn’t pyrophoric. It needs pressure or friction to ignite. You used to find it on the heads of sulphur-tip matches. You’re probably thinking of white phosphorous.


You are correct, LabRat, I was thinking of white. Got to learn to stop being so damned specific.:rolleyes:

I am mildly surprised that no one came up with the obvious answer: farts + matches in a fraternity house.