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Forum LockedGREEK FIRE - 1453 CONSTANTINOPLE

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eaglecap View Drop Down
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    Posted: 01-Apr-2008 at 00:50
I remember being questioned as to whether Greek Fire was really used during the 1453 siege of Constantinople. I found one secondary source that talks about it. It is a horrible way to go and it is sad men are forced to go so far to defend their homeland and make war.

GREEK FIRE AND THE SIEGE OF CONSTANTINOPLE
It was used on one occasion then as a defensive weapon for a ship arriving with grain. The Turks who attempted to intercept it were beaten off using Greek fire. It was also used against siege towers. We are told a German named Johannes Grant, directed the fire. He sprayed Greek fire on to an enormous siege machine. It continues

Greek fire was also used when the Ottoman soldiers stormed the walls. Fire was poured down on the unfortunate souls climbing up, and we are given a nightmare picture of the soldiers falling into the moat screaming with pain.

The chapter continues to talk about the use of Greek fire in China and this would be an interesting topic to explore in another thread.



The Fall of Constantinople; The Ottoman Conquest of Byzantium by D. Nicolle, J. Haldon and S. Turnbull    page 152 Osprey Pub- 2007

Edited by eaglecap - 01-Apr-2008 at 01:22
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Apr-2008 at 07:38
Greek fire was obselet by the time of the conquest, it was replaced by artillary and much more potent kinds of fire weapons since the 11th century. Anyway, Constantinople was going to fall anyway, it was already a vassale for the Turks under the name of an empire and it fell.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Apr-2008 at 12:54

Greek fire seems to have been a decisive part of the Byzantine naval arsenal for a surprisingly long time, but by 1453 it had been over 500 years since it had saved Constantinople from the fleets of the Arabs and the Rus, and I cannot imagine tubes blowing Greek fire would be much of a replacement for or defence against cannons.

Hwæt! wē Gār-Dena in geār-dagum,
þeod-cyninga, þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 01:23
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Greek fire was obselet by the time of the conquest, it was replaced by artillary and much more potent kinds of fire weapons since the 11th century. Anyway, Constantinople was going to fall anyway, it was already a vassale for the Turks under the name of an empire and it fell.

Al-Jassas


Understoond and I agree with your statment but they still used it in defense of the city on a limited scale. I put the source above but I have read about this in other sources. I think it was Constantine XI who was the one who questioned its use in 1453. I have read many books about Byzantine history although my degree focused on pre-Greek to Hellenism. The Byzantines could not use their larger cannons because they damaged the walls more than the incoming bombardment by the Turks- ask byz Emp-

Al Jassas can you read Byzantine Greek? I am sure Byzantine Emp can since he is in that program. I still cannot recall how close Koine Greek is to Byzantine but if he sees this I am sure I will get an answer.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 15:45
Don't overstimate the canons used in the siege though...from I have read they were huge cumbersome devices that overheated after every shot and needed a lot time and water to get ready to fire again. Malfunctions were also frequent and many died from them.

In the end it wasn't the canons didn't destroy the walls, but the janissary charges and if the myth is to be believed a forgotten back door
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Anton Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 16:06
Forgotten??? Or opened from inside?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Vorian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 17:03
The myth says forgotten. Opened from inside makes more sense. But I doubt that this gate was used at all. It's more like a figment of fantasy "If not for that gate, we would still have the city"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 17:50
If those cannons did not destroy the walls then what on earth did? LOL
 
Until the end of the siege the Ottoman guns did not stop pounding the walls. Heavy damage was inflicted. The defenders did their best to limit it. They hanged bales of wool, sheets of leather. Nothing could help. The section of the walls in the Lycus valley, near the Emperor's position, was heavily damaged. The foss in front of it was almost filled by the besiegers...On the land side the bombardment continued, more walls collapsed, and when night fell everyone rushed to close the gap, reinforce the stockades, build here and there.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 21:54
Originally posted by Vorian Vorian wrote:

Don't overstimate the canons used in the siege though...from I have read they were huge cumbersome devices that overheated after every shot and needed a lot time and water to get ready to fire again. Malfunctions were also frequent and many died from them.In the end it wasn't the canons didn't destroy the walls, but the janissary charges and if the myth is to be believed a forgotten back door


Yes, the cannons did overheat and the big cannon exploded and it might have killed the Hungarian who designed them according to author Crowly. Without these cannons the city might never have been taken. Mehmet was close to giving up and I agree with Seko the cannons made a big difference- ask Byzantine Emperor-??? The A&E expert on this topic-
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Al Jassas Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 22:04
Helli eagle
 
I wish i knew any language other than english and Arabic. I tried to learn latin and failed because I couldn't accumilate enough vocabulary nor I had any dictionary so that I could practice reading. I can read greek because since I learned math I also know the greek alphabate yet I can't understand anything. Anyway, the war was over well before the Turks started the siege. Constantine should have accepted defeat and spared the lives of the thousands who died during the siege. Turks had the most advanced military at that time and nothing would have stopped them from conquerin the city.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Seko Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Apr-2008 at 22:14

Cannon artillery were also used in the newly built Rumeli Hisar Fortress. The big gun Bogaz Kesen (Boshporus cutter) was put to use before the invasion on ships that tried to out run the shipping toll. The Ottomans had been making smaller cannons as well. The tactics used changed during the battle. By four shots at ninety degree targets, a fifth shot was taken to the middle of the wall. That strategy created more damage than the previous multiple shots at one particular location.

It was true that the guns overheated. Oils were used to cool them but the biggest guns could only be fired at a limited rate. As some of you have already mentioned, when overheated they tended to burst into fragments. Some of them were only fractured. Some put out of commision. However, being an early use of cannon, expertise was a learn as you go affair. Eventually the tactics and rates of fire were perfected. The walls did come tumbling down followed by mass assaults. Most of them unsuccessful. That is when the Sultan had his doubts. Eventually the last assault occurred at multiple points at the gaps. One was directed at the open Kerkoporta gate.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Apr-2008 at 09:49
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Turks had the most advanced military at that time and nothing would have stopped them from conquerin the city.
 
Except, of course, if Constantine XI had played the part of Ottoman vassal more willingly instead of continuously agitating the Sultan. It should be remembered that Constantine XI wouldn't have been emperor in the first place if it hadn't been for Murad II electing him.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Apr-2008 at 23:10
Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Greek fire was obselet by the time of the conquest, it was replaced by artillary and much more potent kinds of fire weapons since the 11th century. Anyway, Constantinople was going to fall anyway, it was already a vassale for the Turks under the name of an empire and it fell.

Al-Jassas


History has shown you to be correct on this but when we look at even our own past we have 20/20 vision. Mehmet, as brilliant as he was almost gave up. The Fates were on his side! lol


   In fact, Constantinoples walls were still so strong that, even in the context of mid-15the century warfare, the Ottoman numerical advantage at first had little impact. Even though the Byzantines and Italians did not expect such aggressive action from the Ottoman fleet, there was little danger of the walls along the Marmara coast being breached, and with adequate ships in the Golden Horn the defenders became confident of protecting the floating boom. Again they were correct- until the Ottomans seized the Golden Horn behind them.

    Clearly the idea that Constantinople was inevitably doomed is wrong, and the overall situation was not one-sided as a simple glance at a map might suggest.

The fall of Constantinople; Ottoman conquest of Byzantium- page 210
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Apr-2008 at 23:23
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Originally posted by Al Jassas Al Jassas wrote:

Turkshad the most advanced military at that time andnothing would have stopped them from conquerin the city.


Except, of course, if Constantine XI had played the part of Ottoman vassal morewillingly instead of continuously agitating the Sultan. It should be remembered that Constantine XI wouldn't have been emperor in the first place if it hadn't been for Murad II electing him.


I agree it would have been better if the Emperor had surrendered but they had this misguided idea that God or the west would rescue them in the end and Constantine did not trust Mehmet. There was also the feeling that the loss of the city was due to their sins and this was God's judgement upon them. The fact they used Greek fire against Mehment's artillary shows how desperate they were to save the city.

An interesting quote from Dourkas, Decline and fall of Byazantium to the Ottoman Turks - translated by Harry J. Magoulias Wayne State University Press 1975 Detroit, 218

The Emperor did not trust Mehmet and sent back his reply, For it was not possible to take the city from the Romans and turn it over to the Turks. Were we to do this, along what road or in what place or Christian City could they settle where the inhabitants would not spit upon the Romans and revile them and mortify them? And not only Christians but also Turks and Jews would treat them with contempt.

(pride-??)

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Apr-2008 at 14:55
Originally posted by eaglecap eaglecap wrote:

I agree it would have been better if the Emperor had surrendered
 
I didn't say it would've been better, simply that the siege could have been avoided this way. I prefer things the way they happened; much more dramatic, an end so fitting of the Roman Empire it could've been scripted.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Apr-2008 at 01:33
Originally posted by Reginmund Reginmund wrote:

Originally posted by eaglecap eaglecap wrote:

I agree it would have been better if the Emperor had surrendered


I didn't say it would've been better, simply that the siege could have been avoided this way. I prefer things the way they happened; much more dramatic,an end so fitting of the Roman Empire it could've been scripted.


Yes I agree and it adds a little Romanticism that my Byzantine ancestors fought till the end.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Guess Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Apr-2008 at 23:27
The turks had a total of 3 cannons. I would think greek fire would be useful against infantry attacks, when they attack the wall. I would think it would make sense to put these near gates or even lined up inside of gates in case someone broke through.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Apr-2008 at 01:15
Originally posted by Guess Guess wrote:

The turks had a total of 3 cannons. I would think greek fire would be useful against infantry attacks, when they attack the wall. I would think it would make sense to put these near gates or even lined up inside of gates in case someone broke through.


Let me look it up but I do believe they had more than three cannons.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Greek Hoplite Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16-Apr-2008 at 08:58
They had around 69 canons and greek fire was mainly used to kill invaders that were trying to destroy walls or enter the city via tunnels. For this job Byzantines had Johanes or John Grant who came from Germany but he was propably Scotch.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Aster Thrax Eupator Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20-Apr-2008 at 13:41
The Turks had urban the gunmaster, control of many of the armouries in anatolia and some massive bombards. The Byzantines had most of their trade controlled by most of the fortresses that Murad and Memhet built along the side of the Bosphorus and quite obslete weapons anyway. The Turks appear to have been very modernised very early on - everyone speaks about Pavia 1525 as one of the most prominent first battles which was won to artillery but in 1516, the Turks defeated Shah Is'mail's Safavid army in Anatolia due to cannon and trained jannisary musketeers. Even at this time they appear to have been very comptent with the latest developments in military technology. Under Murad I, Mehmet I and them Murad II and Mehmet II (they are actually two sultans though - father and son) the Byzantine empire was, as someone above said - a vassal state anyway. I think it was Mehmet who earlier had forced Constantine XI to campagin to the east with him. At this period, with all of these political developments, Greek fire wasn't going to do a lot, and even if they did survive the siege hypothetically because of it, the Byzantine empire's fate was sealed. It seems to have declined at the c1200 Latin invasion and Alexius V. Apparently before the siege, the Byzantines tried to unify with Rome again for help, since they broke with Rome in 1054.
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