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Section: Ancient Lamps
Page 9 of 14Last updated: 12 April 2008

On Terra-cotta Lamps
On Terra-cotta Lamps

An Edwardian Article - from the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, December 10, 1906.

Robert Coltman Clephan, FSA Scot.

Fig. 9.—Christian lamp found in a tomb at Jerusalem by Professor Palmer, probably the work of a Greek artist. It is enriched with the legend of "the dove and the olive branch" in relief.

These lamps are in my possession.

The use of wax as an illuminant was not unknown to the Romans, but that they generally used oil is told by the proverb "tempus et oleum perditi." The terra-cotta lamps of Rome and Italy generally have naturally many points of contact with those of Greece, for they were largely designed by Greek artists, many of whom had been taken in battle by the Romans, and given their freedom so that they might continue their avocations in their new country, instead of being kept or sold as slaves like the other prisoners of war; still the mere lampmaker occupied no distinguished position in the republic of art. Furthermore, the intimate connection of Italian pottery with that of Greece probably goes back to B.C. 660-655 ; for when the Corinthians revolted against the Bacchiadae and drove them from the city, Damaratos, one of their family, fled, and, it is said, found an asylum at Tarquinii, in Etruria, taking with him the two celebrated potters, Eucheir and Eugrammos, who founded a school of pottery there. Damaratos is stated by Pliny to have been the father of the elder Tarquin. The Bacchiadae were popularly supposed to have been the descendants of Heracles. Rome was indebted to the Etruscans for her early lessons in art before her intercourse with Greece. Roman lamps are spread broadcast over the empire ; for Rome, after the second Punic War, became the chief seat of the lamp-making industry, and they were exported thence to the provinces, carrying their story with them ; hence another reason besides that of Greek influence why the country of origin of so many of the specimens found outside Italy is so often in doubt. With the fall of the metropolis of the world the manufacture of these lamps would appear to have ceased in Italy. When potters' names are stamped on Roman examples they are usually of Greek nationality, and must be looked for at the bottoms. Many Roman lamps are made of a rather dark red paste, being of earth from the

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