Assassin’s Creed: Revelations – Flamethrowers: Did they really exist back then?
The technology of Assassin’s Creed
©2011 David Hilton
Video games are known to play fast and loose with historical accuracy.
Games set in a historic context from Wolfenstein 3D‘s Robot Hitler to Rome Total War‘s attempted recreations of historic battlefields, show that though the past can make excellent playgrounds, recreating them with a high degree of accuracy is very difficult.
The Assassin’s Creed franchise is one of those series that can almost trick the gamer into learning about the past through its entertaining medium.
The fact that the games are actually much more accurate than most films that use the backdrop of history means they manage to mostly offset their historical and scientific deficiencies.
E3 Video with Flamethrower Destruction
Driving around in a Renaissance tank or firing a chain gun from a wagon in Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood may not be very likely (though these weapons of war were indeed based on Leonardo Da Vinci sketches), but they were surprisingly fun.
So it would be easy for gamers to assume that such liberal license was taken with the newest oddly modern gadget Ezio gets to use in the upcoming game Assassin’s Creed: Revelations: the flamethrower.
However, not only did the flamethrower actually exist in that time period, but it existed in that place, Constantinople.
I love the smell of naphtha in the morning!
Though basic flame launching devices, using a tube with burning sulfur or coal blown by mouth toward enemies, existed hundred of years B.C./B.C.E., the idea was refined in the 7th Century in….you guessed it…the Byzantine Empire, the capital of which was Constantinople.
In 672 Kallinikos, a Greek Syrian, developed a highly flammable sticky oil based substance called “Greek Fire”, probably made up of a mixture of liquid petroleum, sulfur, quicklime and a few other ‘secret ingredients’.
Depending on your source, he either offered it first to the Muslim armies attacking Constantinople, or he escaped from them after their conquest of Syria; either way he rescued the besieged Byzantines in 678, when they put his invention of mass destruction into good use.
Along the walls of Constantinople and on many of their ships (as demonstrated in the E3 trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations above), the Byzantines used narrow brass tubes and a syphon-pumping system to create a devastating flamethrower.
It worked by pumping the pressurised naphtha fluid out of reservoirs through the tube, across a burning pilot light, igniting it in a long spray out toward enemies and enemy ships.
The naphtha would stick to whatever it hit, including water, and stay lit, proving a devastating weapon, much like the napalm used in the Vietnam War.
Some reports put the Muslim Caliph‘s losses at 30,000 men.
Ezio sure uses it effectively to destroy a harbour full of ships in that E3 trailer.
Though Constantinople is held by the Ottomans by the time the game takes place, others have learned the secret of the flamethrower by then.
Hand held weapon
But wait…there’s more!
This principle also may have been developed by the Byzantines into hand-held flamethrowers, something not believed to have been invented until modern times.
We have yet to see if Ezio gets to use this device, but like the bigger versions on the walls and ships, this portable weapon worked by siphoning the liquid from a small tank below the tube that is pumped out by piston push-pull action, over a pilot light, creating a long jet of lit Greek Fire.
The only drawback to this device was the small amount of fuel they could carry, and the on/off nature of the piston pump-action (like a Super Soaker water gun).
With the advent of gunpowder, these devices would have been rendered too difficult, slow and close-range.
It wasn’t until WWI that flamethrowers are rediscovered and WW2 and the Vietnam War that they become well-used portable weapons.
Ezio’s new toy?
We will shortly know if Ezio gets to play with a hand-held flamethrower, but at least we’ve seen that he gets to use the larger variety in the game.
I still prefer him to use close-quarter weapons, but I can imagine that many gamers’ eyes would light up with glee if they got to barbecue some Templars.
And even more Assassin’s Creed:
- Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Update- The End of The Beginning? – Read more
- Previously On…Assassin’s Creed: story catch-up video, here
- Assassin’s Creed Revelations: Flamethrowers – Did they exist back then? Read More
- What Assassin’s Creed Could Learn from Shadow of the Colossus - Read More
- Assassin’s Creed: Revelations: All the facts revealed – read more
- Assassin’s Creed 3: Set in American Revolution? - check here
- The Assassin’s Creed Effect: 3 Templar Games in 2011 – Read More
- Assassin’s Creed 3 – Where and When to Next Part 1. –Read more.
- Assassin’s Creed 3 – Where and When to Next Part 2 –Read more.
©2011 David Hilton
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