Book Of Facts
WEAPONS AND WARFARE
The first people to use a form of napalm- the highly inflammable petroleum jelly used in flamethrowers and bombs- were the Byzantine Greeks. The chief ingredient of ?Greek fire?, a naphtha compound called naphthenate palmitate, is also the main constituent of napalm, which takes its name from the compound (naphthenate palmitate).
Greek fire was used in two ways: as a missile hurled hurled form a catapult, or as a flamethrower. It burned spontaneously when it came in contact with water and so was a favorite weapon on Byzantine war vessels. Greek fire may have changed the course of history. Thanks to the fireballs, the Byzantine rules of Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) were able in AD 716-18 to destroy the wooden fleets of Muslim Arabs who were besieging the city- and so blocked the spread of Islam into Eastern Europe.
The exact formula for making Greek fire was a closely guarded secret which has not survived. But it probably involved various combinations of naphtha, sulphur, petroleum, bitumen, turpentine, charcoal, quicklime and saltpetre.
TAKE SEVEN PARTS OF SALTPETRE ?
The first European recipe for gunpowder- seven parts of saltpetre to five parts of charcoal and five parts of sulphur- is attributed to the 13th ? century English monk and scientist Roger Bacon. No one knows who invented the explosive, although the Chinese were using it in the 10th century for signals and fireworks. By 1300th Arabs were propelling arrows from guns by means of it. And in 1326 the Council of Florence in Italy made the earliest known European reference to guns and gunpowder in a document ordering a consignment of iron bullets.
TWENTY- NINE YEAR SIEGE
The longest siege known in history is one recorded by the 5th- century BC Greek historian. Herodotus Towards the end of the 7th century BC the Egyptians kept up an assault on the town of Azotus (now Ashdob), in Israel, for 29 years before it surrendered.
THE CASTLE THAT SETTLED A DEBT
In 1365 France?s Duke of Burgundy paid the loan of some cannon- with a castle. The duke had borrowed the cannon from the town of Charles to use in his assault on the nearby castle of Camrolles. The cannon soon destroyed the walls- and the fall of camrolles marked the end of traditional medieval fortification. The duke then presented the battered castle to the townspeople of Charters to discharge his debt to them.
The first documented use of cannon in Europe took place 19 years earlier when in 1346 Edward III of England defeated the French at the Battle of Crecy, in northwest France. But his victory had less to do with the new weapon than with the superiority of the English longbowmen.