III. Roman-Period Clay Lamps / Types from Eastern Provinces only / Augustan and Imperial Lamps

Lamp with square body, Bailey type I


Lamps of this type are characterized by their shallow biconical square bodies. They have a projecting nozzle, whose tip can be rounded or have an oval raised wick area, as in Bailey type H, sometimes tending to a heart-shaped form. The top part of the lamp can be perfectly square (see Fabbricotti 1980, fig. 2), or the part facing the nozzle can be symmetrically curved, vaguely reminiscent of two volutes. In this case, the base has a pentagonal shape (see Fabbricotti 1980, fig. 3). In fact, some examples have nozzle volutes (Brants 1913, no. 436, pl. 4; Walters 1914, no. 479; Menzel 1969, pp. 47–48, no. 259, fig. 37). Most of the examples published (about thirty-five are recorded in the literature at our disposal) have a circular concave discus, sometimes interrupted by a short channel or furrow facing the nozzle. This discus can be surrounded by a row of ovolos or set in a square frame consisting of one or several grooves. On a few examples the central part is not circular but square and framed by square ridges as on cat. 519. Handles are not frequent but may occur, as on Bailey BM III Q 1678, which has a ring handle.

Where did the type originate? In Italy it is attested by at least a dozen examples. Six are from Pompeii and Herculaneum: De Caro 1974, no. 41, pl. 10, signed LVC; Pavolini 1977, p. 37; Bisi Ingrassia 1977, p. 97, type XI; Allison 2006, no. 43, pls. 3 and 131; one from Pozzuoli: Bailey BM III, Q 1107; one from Catania: Libertini 1930, no. 1484; one from Aquileia: Di Filippo Balestrazzi 1988, vol. 2.2, no. 1189, pl. 194; three from Rome: Hellmann 1987, p. 64, nos. 238–40; one from Italy without more precision: Bernhard 1955, no. 256, signed PY (for the PY signature, see Rosenthal and Sivan 1978, p. 87, no. 354). The Bologna and the Milano museums each has one lamp without place of manufacture or origin: Gualandi Genito 1977, no. 519, pl. 69; Sapelli 1979, no. 177, pl. 18.

The Museo Nazionale Romano has fourteen examples, also without known place of manufacture or origin, perhaps previously kept in the Museum Kircherianum (Fabbricotti 1980, p. 227); taking into account their number, Fabbricotti supposes that some of them at least may have been produced in Italy. Six lamps do not have a workshop mark, eight lamps are signed; among the latter, four signatures are either illegible or uncertain; the others read: OPPI (no. 1), COPPIRES (nos. 4 and 11), or EX OFF M T MARI (no. 10). We believe MTMARI to be an African workshop, not yet attested in Italy. Six lamps with this signature (Loeschcke type VIII) have been found in central Tunisia (Alaoui II, nos. 913, 956, 1024, 1132; Alaoui III, nos. 2065 and 2226) and two more on Lipari, where African lamps were heavily imported from the second half of second century A.D. onward (Bernabò Brea and Cavalier 1965, nos. 228–29). As for the two MNR lamps signed COPPIRES, this workshop has through archaeological evidence been located on the Janiculum Hill in Rome (Via XXX Aprile) (Maestripieri and Ceci 1990). Nevertheless, judging from the considerable number of lamps signed COPPIRES that have been found in Africa, it is generally admitted that this huge family business had several branches there. Thus only MNR lamp no. 1, signed OPPI, is very likely to have been produced in Italy. Outside Italy, square-bodied lamps were certainly made in Africa: this is certified by Bailey’s lamp Q 1678, signed MNOVIVSTI, as well as by Fabbricotti’s lamp no. 10, signed MTMARI, both signatures of recognized African workshops (Fabbricotti 1980).

Three lamps of Bailey type I have been found in Asia Minor: in the Troad (Brants 1913, no. 436), in Miletus (Menzel 1969, p. 48, no. 259, fig. 37), and in Ephesus (Bailey BM III, Q 3023, pl. 99). Taking the place of manufacture or origin of the two latter authors into account, Bisi Ingrassia (apparently not aware of Brants’s lamp) asserts that the three examples excavated in Herculaneum are not Italic. She suggests they may have been imported from an Asia Minor workshop, for the type seems so incongruous among the customary Italic material found in Herculaneum (Bisi Ingrassia 1977 1977, p. 97).

One or two more square-bodied lamps are known, but without place of manufacture or origin (see Bailey BM II, p. 242). As for the geographical origin of the type, we must discard Africa, for MNOVIVSTI and MTMARI were active in a much later period than the Italic workshops OPPI and LVC (70–80/90), present in Pompeii. Can the volute-nozzles of the three eastern lamps mentioned above be interpreted as a sign of an early date compared to the Campanian examples? We lack archaeological context data for an answer. On the basis of its solid handle and its general workmanship, we are inclined to give cat. 519 a date later than A.D. 120–180, the one Bailey attributes to his Q 1679 (MNOVIVSTI). Thus we suggest the very end of the second century A.D. and consider it highly possible that the place of manufacture or origin of this lamp is the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 519