Tanks and rifles sure are scary and lethal, so is mustard or chlorine gas. When it comes to creating weapons to annihilate adversaries, we sure can count on how the ancient people effectively forged some of the most formidable and fearsome weapons they had used. Some of them even became the foundation of how our munitions and equipment were developed. With that, here are some of history’s feared and hottest weapons during their time.

Greek Fire

Grenades filled with liquid fire and caltrops from the fortress of Chania 10th and 12th centuries
Grenades filled with liquid fire and caltrops from the fortress of Chania 10th and 12th centuries. (BadseedCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Don’t you just hate it when you accidentally burn yourself by touching hot surfaces? Then you’ll despise the incendiary weapon used by the Eastern Roman Empire in ca. 672. Called the Greek fire, this flame-throwing weapon was what the Byzantine navy typically used during naval battles to burn down enemy ships and effectively provided them with advantages that resulted in military victories. What was truly remarkable about this Greek fire was that it could be ignited even in contact with water, and the victims would continue to burn even while on water.

The Byzantines, later on, developed this weapon by using pressurized nozzles to project the liquid onto the enemy ships, much more like an ancient version of our flamethrower. The formula for this formidable weapon was unsurprisingly a closely guarded state secret, although there were speculations and debate on what it was. The proposal included a mixture of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, calcium phosphide, sulfur, and or niter.

Greek fire was no doubt a concoction of destruction, but that did not make the Byzantine navy untouchable. Soon, the Muslim navies found ways to defend themselves from it, either by staying out and away from its effective range or by shielding themselves with felt or hides soaked in vinegar.