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Lot 0098
Ancient Near East, Byzantine Empire, ca. mid-12th century CE. A molded ceramic hand grenade, used for holding the famed "Greek fire." The grenade has a seashell-like shape, with a hole near the top for inserting chemicals and other combustible materials. The body is textured with a series of incised chevron-style designs, and the neck is adorned with a repeating feather-form motif. The exact composition of Greek fire is unknown - probably some combination of pine resin, naphtha, quicklime, sulphur, and resin - but tales of its destructive capabilities echo through the centuries. Ancient grenades were stockpiled prior to battle and only filled when they needed to be used, hence the survival of this example. They were known to their victims as "naphtha pots" and their widespread use is recorded from the attack of the Crusader King of Jerusalem, Amalric I, on the city of Fus in 1167. Size: 2.625" W x 6.875" H (6.7 cm x 17.5 cm).

Provenance: ex-private Cypress, Texas, USA collection

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Age-commensurate surface wear, small chips and losses to base, body, and neck, with fading to some incised designs, and light discoloration, otherwise very good. Light earthen and mineral deposits throughout.

Buyer's Premium

  • 24.5%

Unusual Byzantine Terracotta Hand Grenade - Greek Fire

Estimate $500 - $700May 10, 2018
Louisville, CO, USA