According to the oldest indications, Asia was the first place where an inflammable material was used.
In 674, Caliph Mouraira laid siege to Constantinople. At that time, a Syrian, called Callinicus, took the opportunity to offer his services to the Byzantine emperor by offering him a miraculous fire of which he claimed to be the inventor. Callinicus’s secret was to become a formidable weapon in the hands of the Byzantines: Greek fire. It was a mixture of naphtha, tar, sulphur, resin and saltpetre. So far it was only an inflammable mixture but with the addition of saltpetre it was to acquire a strength and resistance to extinction never before seen.
For nearly six centuries, the Byzantine empire was successfully to use its Greek fire in sea battles.
In 1204, the Crusade army laid siege to Constantinople and took the city, at the same time ruining the Greek monopoly in the use of saltpetre.
Meanwhile, and independently of these events, the Arabs, in their turn, began to see the arrival of the revelation of the properties of saltpetre and gunpowder, again coming from China with which they had maintained relations since the 8th century. Whereas the Byzantines used Greek fire almost exclusively in naval battles, the Arabs were going to work out how to use it in land battles.