Were Fire Arrows Real?

Yes! They are indeed real. Whether you’ve heard about them through facts or fiction, fire arrows were a major weapon used during medieval times. These flaming darts were used in the Alexandrian, Gallic, and Spanish wars, making them a key weapon in battles. This weapon was a genuine threat and a common tool of war used while attacking towns, villages, and cities. The distinguishing feature that makes this weapon so threatening was that it embodies an arrow’s logistics and archery’s practicality.

Why Did They Light Arrows On Fire?

Even if it provides no actual decisive advantage other than scaring your opponent, fire is always a fantastic intimidation tool in warfare. The use of thermal weapons has been significant in combat to take down ships or a cluster of opponents on the enemy lines.

A great advantage of lighting arrows on fire was that this form of the method was cheap to produce. Arrows were inexpensive, and if they were ignited with fire and hit the opponent you were aiming for in battle, it was it. They didn’t only pierce the opponents but also burned and scalded them, increasing the likelihood of immediate death.

However, even if the arrows strayed from the intended target, it wouldn’t be regarded as a major loss. Making a flaming arrow was fairly simple: all it required was to wrap a pitch-soaked cloth around the arrowhead, light it, and shoot it towards enemy lines.

Archers utilized flaming arrows as tracers to modify their firing as needed. Using this weapon, it could be traced where the arrows were reaching during the night time to track whether or not the arrows had arrived at enemy lines.

Did Armies Use Fire Arrows?

Yes, armies did in fact, employ this type of weapon in their combat strategy. Defeating siege equipment, killing warriors hidden in forested regions, and attacking ships are one of the many reasons why fire arrows were used.

Furthermore, armies could conceal the battlefield and use the lack of visibility to their advantage. The Mongolian military campaigns were particularly adept at this; they would use fire arrows to instill loss of direction, confusion, and overall dread in the hearts of opposing warriors.

The key tactic in using fire arrows was the way they were aimed. When the time to shoot a fire arrow arose, the warrior would tie to his bowstring. Secondly, in the preparation of releasing the arrow, he would pull at the bowstring. The point of the arrow was then lowered, ignited, and blasted into the air. After reaching a certain height, the fire arrow would burst into flame until it reached the ground.

These arrows were beneficial in tearing apart wooden cities and wooden walls that guarded towns and castles. One of the most prominent uses of these arrows was when Athens was captured by these weapons in 480 BC.


Fire arrows worked wonders in ancient warfare. They served as great incendiary missiles and significantly harmed the opposing forces. Additionally, they were the pioneer of explosive weapons and were later improved by including chemical additives in the pitch-soaked cloth, which caused the fires to adhere strongly and proceeded to take down wooden buildings, fortresses, and stone walls.

Fire arrows were later further revolutionized and molded to the form of the falarica (big fire-bolt), which was a machine-fired spear with a long iron point soaked in flaming pitch and sulfur that produced tremendous carnage.

If you found this article interesting and are fascinated by medieval warfare, you will also like the article we have written on the size of medieval armies. Let us know what you think!