For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for List of Byzantine inventions.

List of Byzantine inventions

The characteristic multi-domed profile of the Byzantine Hagia Sophia, the first pendentive dome in history, has shaped Orthodox and Islamic architecture alike.[1]

This is a list of Byzantine inventions. The Byzantine or Eastern Roman Empire represented the continuation of the Roman Empire after a part of it collapsed. Its main characteristics were Roman state traditions, Greek culture and Christian faith.[2]



  • Counterweight trebuchet: The earliest written record of the counterweight trebuchet, a vastly more powerful design than the simple traction trebuchet,[11] appears in the work of the 12th-century historian Niketas Choniates. Niketas describes a stone projector used by future emperor Andronikos I Komnenos at the siege of Zevgminon[citation needed] I 1165. This was equipped with a windlass, an apparatus required neither for the traction nor hybrid trebuchet to launch missiles.[12] Chevedden hypothesizes that the new artillery type was introduced at the 1097 Siege of Nicaea when emperor Alexios I Komnenos, an ally of the besieging crusaders, was reported to have invented new pieces of heavy artillery which deviated from the conventional design and made a deep impression on everyone.[13]
  • Hand-trebuchet: The hand-trebuchet (cheiromangana) was a staff sling mounted on a pole using a lever mechanism to propel projectiles. Basically a portable trebuchet which could be operated by a single man, it was advocated by emperor Nikephoros II Phokas around 965 to disrupt enemy formations in the open field. It was also mentioned in the Taktika of general Nikephoros Ouranos (ca. 1000), and listed in the Anonymus De obsidione toleranda as a form of artillery.[14]
  • Greek fire: The invention and military employment of Greek fire played a crucial role in the defense of the empire against the early onslaught of the Muslim Arabs. Brought to Constantinople by a refugee from Syria by the name of Kallinikos,[15] the incendiary weapon came just in time to save the capital from the Muslim sieges of 674–678 and 717–718, which might have otherwise proven fatal to the Byzantine state.[16]
Greek fire, referred to by Byzantine chroniclers as "sea fire" or "liquid fire",[17] was primarily a naval weapon, used in ship-to-ship battle against enemy galleys. The exact composition was a well-guarded state secret, to the point that modern scholars continue to debate its ingredients, but the main method of projection is fairly clear, indicating effectively a flame-thrower: The liquid mixture, heated in a brazier and pressurized by means of a pump, was ejected by an operator through a siphon in any direction against the enemy[18] Alternatively, it could be poured down from swivel cranes or hurled in pottery grenades.[19]
Greek fire held a fearsome reputation among Byzantium's numerous enemies who began to field – probably differently composed – combustibles of their own.[20] It was, however, no wonder weapon, but dependent on favourable conditions such as a calm sea and wind coming from behind.[21] When and how the use of Greek fire was discontinued is not exactly known. According to one theory, the Byzantines lost the secret due to over-compartmentalization long before the 1204 sack of Constantinople.[22]
  • Incendiary grenade: Grenades appeared not long after the reign of Leo III (717–741), when Byzantine soldiers learned that Greek fire could not only be projected by flamethrowers, but also be thrown in stone and ceramic jars.[23] Larger containers were hurled by catapults or trebuchets at the enemy, either ignited before release or set alight by fire arrows after impact.[24] Grenades were later adopted for use by Muslim armies: Vessels of the characteristic spheroconical shape which many authors identify as grenade shells were found over much of the Islamic world,[25] and a possible workshop for grenade production from the 13th century was excavated at the Syrian city of Hama.[26]
  • Flamethrower: for ship-borne flamethrowers, see Greek fire above. Portable hand-siphons were used in land warfare.

Science and Daily Life

  • The Fork: the fork was originally used as a utensil for picking up and eating food in the 7th century by the nobles of the Byzantine empire. It was later introduced to western Europe through the marriage of Maria Argyropoulina to Giovanni Orseolo. The story goes that during her wedding feast she used her personal two pronged golden fork to eat some food. The Venetians, having not known of the fork and eating with their hands, considered using the fork blasphemous, "God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks—his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to him to substitute artificial metal forks for them when eating.” claimed one member of the clergy. She died of a disease a few years later which the Venetians claimed was the result of her disrespecting God with her fork.[27][28][29]
  • Byzantine lyra: Medieval bowed string musical instrument in the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire.
  • Corpus Juris Civilis: Under the reign of Justinian the Great he initiated reforms that had a clear effect on the evolution of jurisprudence as his Corpus Juris Civilis became the foundation of the jurisprudence in the Western world.
  • Icon: Icons are images of holy beings such as Jesus, Mary and the saints which, painted according to certain traditional rules, have been playing a pivotal role in Eastern Orthodox Church veneration since its early days. The most distinctive Byzantine form are representations on portable wooden panels painted in the Hellenistic techniques of tempera or encaustic. Other varieties include (precious) metal reliefs or mosaic-style panels set with tesserae of precious stones, gold, silver and ivory. The use of icons was violently opposed during the iconoclastic controversy which dominated much of Byzantium's internal politics in the 8th and 9th centuries, but was finally resumed by the victorious iconodules. Only few early icons have survived the iconoclasm, the most prominent examples being the 6th–7th century collection from Saint Catherine's Monastery.[30]
  • Feta: feta cheese, specifically, is first recorded in the Byzantine Empire in Avicenna's Poem on Medicine under the name prósphatos (Greek: πρόσφατος, "recent" or "fresh"), and was produced by the Cretans and the Aromanians of Thessaly.
  • Ship mill: The historian Procopius records that ship mills were introduced by Belisarius during the siege of Rome (537/538), initially as a makeshift solution. After the Ostrogoths had interrupted the water-supply of the aqueducts on which the city was dependant to run its gristmills, Belisarius ordered riverboats to be fitted with mill gearing; these were moored between bridge piers where the strong current powered the water wheels mounted on the vessel. The innovative use quickly found acceptance among medieval watermillers, reaching Paris and the Frankish Realm only two decades later.[31]
  • The theory of impetus: The theory was introduced by John Philoponus, and it is the precursor to the concepts of inertia, momentum and acceleration.[32]
  • Hospital: The concept of hospital as institution to offer medical care and possibility of a cure for the patients due to the ideals of Christian charity, rather than just merely a place to die, appeared in Byzantine Empire.[33]
  • Separation of conjoined twins: The first known example of separating conjoined twins happened in the Byzantine Empire in the 10th century. A pair of conjoined twins lived in Constantinople for many years when one of them died, so the surgeons in Constantinople decided to remove the body of the dead one. The result was partly successful as the surviving twin lived three days before dying. The fact that the second person survived for few days after separating him was still being mentioned a century and a half later by historians. The next recorded case of separating conjoined twins was 1689 in Germany.[34][35]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Heinle & Schlaich 1996, p. 32
  2. ^ Kinder & Hilgemann 1989, p. 139
  3. ^ Ousterhout 1996, p. 25
  4. ^ Lange 1986, p. 93, fn. 4
  5. ^ Rasch 1985, pp. 129f.
  6. ^ Heinle & Schlaich 1996, pp. 30–32
  7. ^ Date: Galliazzo 1995, p. 92; O’Connor 1993, p. 129; Hild 1977, p. 145; Hellenkemper 1977–1999, pp. 730f.; Guillou 1993, p. 36; Mango 1976, p. 129; Tunç 1978, p. 108
  8. ^ Galliazzo 1995, p. 92; O’Connor 1993, p. 129
  9. ^ Hild 1977, p. 145
  10. ^ Galliazzo 1995, p. 92
  11. ^ Chevedden 2000, pp. 73–76
  12. ^ Chevedden 2000, p. 86
  13. ^ Chevedden 2000, pp. 76–86, 110f.
  14. ^ Chevedden 2000, p. 110
  15. ^ Pryor & Jeffreys 2006, p. 607
  16. ^ Haldon & Byrne 1977, p. 91
  17. ^ Pryor & Jeffreys 2006, pp. 608f.; Ellis Davidson 1973, pp. 61f.
  18. ^ Haldon & Byrne 1977, p. 93
  19. ^ Pryor & Jeffreys 2006, pp. 378f., 609
  20. ^ Pryor & Jeffreys 2006, pp. 609–617
  21. ^ Pryor & Jeffreys 2006, p. 384
  22. ^ Roland 1992, pp. 655–679
  23. ^ Forbes 1964, p. 107
  24. ^ Pászthory 1986, p. 32
  25. ^ Pentz 1988, pp. 89f.
  26. ^ Pentz 1988, p. 93
  27. ^ "Forks: From Odd Byzantine Instruments to Modern Utensils". National Geographic. 2014-12-18. Archived from the original on April 23, 2020. Retrieved 2020-08-23.
  28. ^ Bramen, Lisa. "A History of Western Eating Utensils, From the Scandalous Fork to the Incredible Spork". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2020-08-23.
  29. ^ Ward, Chad (2009-05-06). "Origins of the Common Fork". Leite's Culinaria. Retrieved 2020-08-23.
  30. ^ Kazhdan 1991, pp. 977–981; Pentcheva 2010, pp. 265–283
  31. ^ Wikander 2000, pp. 383f.
  32. ^ Wildberg, Christian (2018), "John Philoponus", in Zalta, Edward N. (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2018 ed.), Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, retrieved 2020-08-03
  33. ^ Lindberg, David. (1992) The Beginnings of Western Science. University of Chicago Press. Page 349.
  34. ^ "The Case of Conjoined Twins in 10th Century Byzantium -". 4 January 2014.


  • Chevedden, Paul E. (2000), "The Invention of the Counterweight Trebuchet: A Study in Cultural Diffusion", Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 54: 71–116, doi:10.2307/1291833, JSTOR 1291833
  • Ellis Davidson, H. R. (1973), "The Secret Weapon of Byzantium", Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 66 (1): 61–74
  • Forbes, R. J. (1964), Studies in Ancient Technology, vol. 1 (2nd ed.), Leiden: E. J. Brill, p. 107
  • Galliazzo, Vittorio (1995), I ponti romani, vol. 1, Treviso: Edizioni Canova, pp. 92, 93 (fig. 39), ISBN 88-85066-66-6
  • Guillou, André (1993), La Civiltà bizantina, oggetti e messagio, Rome: L'Erma di Bretschneider, pp. 36, 62 (fig. 24), ISBN 978-88-7062-801-2
  • Haldon, J.; Byrne, M. (1977), "A Possible Solution to the Problem of Greek Fire", Byzantinische Zeitschrift, 70 (1): 91–99, doi:10.1515/byzs.1977.70.1.91, S2CID 191489863
  • Heinle, Erwin; Schlaich, Jörg (1996), Kuppeln aller Zeiten, aller Kulturen, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-421-03062-6((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Hellenkemper, H. (1977–1999), "Brücke: Byzantinischer Brückenbau", Lexikon des Mittelalters, vol. 2, Stuttgart: Metzler, pp. 730–731
  • Hild, Friedrich (1977), "Das byzantinische Strassensystem in Kappadokien", in Hunger, Herbert (ed.), Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für die Tabula Imperii Byzantini, vol. 2, Wien: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, p. 145, ISBN 3-7001-0168-6
  • Kazhdan, Alexander P., ed. (1991), The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. 2, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 977–981, ISBN 0-19-504652-8
  • Kinder, Hermann; Hilgemann, Werner, eds. (1989), dtv-Atlas zur Weltgeschichte, Von den Anfängen bis zur Französischen Revolution, vol. 1 (23rd ed.), München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, ISBN 3-423-03001-1
  • Lange, Dorothea (1986), "Theorien zur Entstehung der byzantinischen Kreuzkuppelkirche", Architectura, 16: 93–113
  • Mango, Cyril (1976), Byzantine Architecture, New York: H. N. Abrams, p. 129 (plate 138), ISBN 0-8109-1004-7
  • O’Connor, Colin (1993), Roman Bridges, Cambridge University Press, p. 129 (E38), ISBN 0-521-39326-4
  • Ousterhout, Robert (1996), "An Apologia for Byzantine Architecture", Gesta, 35 (1): 21–33, doi:10.2307/767224, JSTOR 767224, S2CID 193354724
  • Pászthory, Emmerich (1986), "Über das "Griechische Feuer". Die Analyse eines spätantiken Waffensystems", Antike Welt, 17 (2): 27–37
  • Pentcheva, Bissera V. (2010), "What is a Byzantine Icon? Constantinople versus Sinai", in Stephenson, Paul (ed.), The Byzantine World, Taylor & Francis, pp. 265–283, ISBN 978-0-415-44010-3
  • Pentz, Peter (1988), "A Medieval Workshop for Producing 'Greek fire' Grenades", Antiquity, 62 (234): 89–93, doi:10.1017/S0003598X00073531, S2CID 163672516
  • Pryor, John H.; Jeffreys, Elizabeth M. (2006), The Age of the ΔΡΟΜΩΝ. The Byzantine Navy ca. 500–1204, The Medieval Mediterranean. Peoples, Economies and Cultures, 400–1500, vol. 62, Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-90-04-15197-0
  • Rasch, Jürgen (1985), "Die Kuppel in der römischen Architektur. Entwicklung, Formgebung, Konstruktion", Architectura, vol. 15, pp. 117–139
  • Roland, Alex (1992), "Secrecy, Technology, and War: Greek Fire and the Defense of Byzantium, 678-1204", Technology and Culture, 33 (4): 655–679, doi:10.2307/3106585, JSTOR 3106585, S2CID 113017993
  • Tunç, Gülgün (1978), Tas Köprülerimiz, Ankara, p. 108((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  • Wikander, Örjan (2000), "The Water-Mill", in Wikander, Örjan (ed.), Handbook of Ancient Water Technology, Technology and Change in History, vol. 2, Leiden: Brill, pp. 371–400, ISBN 90-04-11123-9

Further reading

  • Dennis, George T. (1997), "Were the Byzantines Creative or Merely Imitative?", Byzantinische Forschungen, 24: 1–9
{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
List of Byzantine inventions
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?