II. Greek and Hellenistic Clay Lamps / Moldmade Lamps

“Ephesus lamps” with triangular beveled nozzle


Howland type 49 A, better known as “Ephesus lamps” or “so-called Ephesus lamps” (e.g., Bruneau 1965, pp. 53–56; Giuliani 2005a, p. 139), appeared in Asia Minor early in the second century B.C. Although lamps of this type, as well as several molds, have been found in great numbers in Ephesus (Giuliani 2005a, p. 139), this city has nevertheless long been denied the role of a major production center of the type. Up to now no vestiges of a workshop or kiln have been discovered at this site or its surroundings (Giuliani 2001, p. 45). However, recent studies and chemical analyses of clays have definitively established a production of the type in Ephesus itself (Giuliani 2005a). “Ephesus lamps” have also been attested, although so far in lesser numbers, at various other Asia Minor sites: Tarsus, Miletus, Pergamon, Assos, Troy, Priene, Samaria/Sebaste, Labraunda, and Sardis. No site has yielded as many specimens as Delos (about twelve hundred), and yet a local Delian production has been discarded. Further clay analyses will perhaps determine if there were production centers besides Ephesus.

Several clay and glaze tints can be distinguished among the Getty examples: a score have a gray clay, unglazed or with a gray-black or sometimes slightly bluish-black glaze; some, in equal proportion, have a gray clay with a glossy or dull glaze; one has an ocher clay with an orange slip; one, a light gray unglazed clay similar to the Cnidus gray fabric; three have different hues of clay and glaze shifting between light brown, brown, and dark brown to partly black. These proportions point to the dominant dark gray or nearly black color characteristic of the “Ephesus” production.

The close similarity of this gray fine fabric with the fabric of other eastern ceramics (esp. Pergamene ceramics with its typical relief decoration) made Bruneau suggest that the Delos “Ephesus lamps” had been imported from Asia Minor.

“Ephesus lamps” have a biconical body, either no handle or a ribbon handle, various sizes of discus that sometimes has a flaring collar, shoulder of various width, and a long nozzle whose tip is either triangular or rounded with a wide flat rim surrounding the wick-hole. The lamps are highly decorated, and some examples have two nozzles. Sometimes there is a channel between the discus and the wick-hole area. “Ephesus lamps” developed as imitations of bronze models, as shown by the oval standing ring of the base, the shape of the long nozzle, and a transverse horizontal band added to the handle. Meant to strengthen the handles of metallic lamps, this feature has but a decorative purpose on clay lamps.

The decoration of “Ephesus lamps” is extremely varied, expressing the Hellenistic taste for vegetal ornaments (esp. floral) rather than representations of humans. The latter are present only as masks or as gods shown with their attributes (Bruneau 1965, p. 55). Bruneau has organized the 1,168 examples found on Delos into eleven groups despite the avowed difficulty in classifying items that are often midway between two types (Bruneau 1965, p. 51). For Bailey “the term ‘Ephesus type’ . . . should be reserved exclusively for lamps that fall within Howland’s type 49 A and Bruneau’s group V,” that is, lamps with a flaring collar around a rather large discus (Bailey BM I, p. 90, n. 2). This restrictive definition, justified for the sake of simplification, is not totally satisfactory, for the phrase “Ephesus type” is still used by scholars to mean lamps belonging to any of Bruneau’s eleven groups. Gualandi Genito uses lucerne di Efeso about lamps that belong indiscriminately to any of Bruneau’s groups (Gualandi Genito 1977, p. 51, nos. 74–77, pl. 17). In a section called Lampes dites d’Ephèse, Lyon-Caen presents examples that appertain to only four of Bruneau’s groups (Lyon-Caen and Hoff 1986, pp. 49–52); more recently Giuliani still speaks of the sogenannte Ephesos-Typus, encompassing all its different variants (Giuliani 2001, p. 45). Without strict consensus of definitions, how should one refer to lamps that are not in Bruneau’s group V yet undeniably belong to his lampes dites d’Ephèse?

“Ephesus lamps” from Athens and Delos are dated from the last quarter of the second century B.C. to the first quarter of the first century B.C. Recent studies propose an earlier date, beginning in the second quarter of the third century for lamps found in Turkey (Gürler 2002 [Metropolis]; Gürler 2003, locally excavated lamps in the Tire museum). Giuliani has established that the workshop of Asklepiades (Tetragonus agora, Ephesus) who produced “Ephesus lamps” was active from the mid-first century B.C. until the first years of the first century A.D. (Giuliani 2001, p. 48). For all the Getty examples the same date will be suggested, ranging from the mid-second century to the beginning of the first century B.C. We should add that the general consensus nowadays holds that lamps with rounded nozzles are later than lamps with triangular ones.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 32