II. Greek and Hellenistic Clay Lamps / Moldmade Lamps

Miscellaneous types of Hellenistic lamps


Among the eighteen lamps presented here, eight have no parallel and cannot be related to any types known in the literature at our disposal; four belong to a recorded type; and six can be related to a presumed type.

The shape of cat. 52, with the nearly vertical sides of its squat and deep basin, is quite unusual among Hellenistic examples. Yet its wide filling-hole and the peculiar shape of its tubular upturned nozzle with the plate around the wick-hole suggest a Hellenistic artifact; but such a nozzle may occur among Anatolian lamps of the second and third centuries A.D. (see cat. 552). No parallel has been found for cat. 52.

The Hellenistic features of cat. 53 are more obvious: its two side-lugs, the radial flute of the shoulder, and the flat plate around its wick-hole.

Cat. 54 with its shallow biconvex body whose upper part is decorated with ribs, and with the circular plate around its wick-hole, is unmistakably Hellenistic. The example can be related to Goldman group XV of “melon lamps.”

Cat. 55—a coarse lamp with biconvex body, a circular groove around the discus, and a round-ended nozzle—seems to be a debased version of a Hellenistic model. Cat. 56, possibly a fake for which no parallel has been found, is undoubtedly related to Hellenistic “Ephesus” models, for it has their triangular nozzle shape. Its peculiar rim is a characteristic of Bruneau type VI “Ariston group” (see Bruneau 1965 and cat. 37 here).

Cat. 57 probably derives from Howland type 49 (“Ephesus” type), which has inspired its nozzle shape, strap handle, and the comic bearded relief mask on its nozzle top. But its rilled shoulder without relief decoration indicates a transitional form that looks ahead to Late Republican and Augustan lamps. The suggested date is first century B.C.

No parallel has been found for cat. 58. The collar encircling the entire lamp is a feature common in Bruneau’s type VI “Ariston group” and in Howland types 52, 54, and 55. On the other hand, its light gray fabric and handle cross-band in the shape of two opposed leaves suggest a Cnidian lamp. The proposed date is second to first century B.C.

With a body halfway between biconvex and biconical, a long round-tipped slightly upturned nozzle, and a strap handle, cat. 59 seems to be Hellenistic. Lyon-Caen’s lamps nos. 125 (from Tarsus) and 127 have about the same volutes on top of the nozzle (Lyon-Caen and Hoff 1986). We are inclined to attribute an Ephesus place of manufacture or origin to cat. 59 and propose a first-century B.C. date.

With their long, slender, anvil-tipped nozzles flanked by volutes, cats. 60 and 61 are typical Egyptian products of the first century B.C., judging from the parallels found.

With its long spade-shaped nozzle cat. 62 belongs to Młynarczyk type A and is another typical Egyptian form. Hayes remarks that the nozzle shape may have been influenced by Hellenistic “Ephesus lamps” (Hayes 1980, no. 131, pl. 13, for a close parallel). Date: first century B.C.

Cat. 63 has a biconical body, long anvil-shaped nozzle, floral shoulder relief, and the almost black slip of Pergamene rather than “Ephesus lamps.” The particular rectangular ridge of its top is reminiscent of an elaborate device (found in bronze lamps) whose function was to close the filling-hole with a sliding lid. In the case of the Getty lamp we suppose that the closing mechanism was replaced by a separate lid in clay, now lost. There are several more or less close parallels to this lamp, most of them from Asia Minor, when their place of manufacture or origin is known. The given date is the second half of the second century B.C. to the first half of the first century B.C., corresponding to a period of intense activity for the Pergamon workshops.

Cat. 64 cannot be related to any existing typologies, but it unquestionably has several Hellenistic features. Its general shape is very similar to Perlzweig 1961, no. 9, pl. 1, with the two halves of a biconvex body decorated with alternating wide and narrow ribs, a long rounded nozzle flanked with double-volutes, and a rosette discus with a relatively small filling-hole. Perlzweig refers to Menzel’s lamp no. 264 from Miletus (Menzel 1969, p. 49, fig. 40), discussed by Loeschcke (Loeschcke 1919, pp. 335–36). Both German authors point to the Hellenistic features of the Miletus lamp, which they date to the second quarter of the first century A.D. An Augustan lamp (Menzel 1969, no. 171, fig. 54.11) is obviously influenced by Hellenistic models with its melon-ribbed body, the rosette decor of its discus, and its volute-nozzle and plastic handle. Other Late Hellenistic lamps, all with a biconvex melon-ribbed body and volute-nozzle, also offer similarities with cat. 64: Schäfer and Marczoch 1990, p. 24, no. 14; Gualandi Genito 1977, no. 94, pl. 19; Heres 1969, no. 175, pl. 18; Cahn-Klaiber 1977, no. 120, pl. 7; and Bailey BM III, Q 2088, pl. 45. A last interesting comparison is a two-nozzle lamp from Pompeii (Regio VIII Insula 4, Caputo and Tamburrelli 2007, fig. 15). If this lamp is an Italic product, still under strong Hellenistic influence, then cat. 64 might be Italic too. The lamps given as parallels are dated from the end of the first century B.C. to the first century A.D.

Cats. 65–67 belong to Goldman’s group IX. Their common feature is a long nozzle flanked by two vertical and parallel volutes. Cat. 65 has a biconical body; cat. 66 a biconvex one; and cat. 67 has a body with rounded sides. All three have ribbon handles. The “thread-binding” seen on the handle of cat. 66 is attested on two similar lamps, one from Delos (Bruneau 1965, no. 4357, pl. 25), the other from Miletus (Menzel 1969, p. 20, no. 58, fig. 16); and on several close parallels, presumably from Antioch-on-the-Orontes (Kassab Tezgör and Sezer 1995, nos. 426–28); and Goldman et al. 1950, lamps nos. 50, 77, 117–18 (from Tarsus). A rosette, close to the one impressed on the base of cat. 66, is shown on Kassab Tezgör and Sezer's lamp no. 426 and on Goldman et al.’s lamp no. 119, from Tarsus. Cat. 65 is molded in a buff, ocher clay with a brown reddish slip, but cats. 66 and 67 have the same gray clay and black metallic glaze typical of “Ephesus” and Pergamene lamps. The three lamps are given the same date: first century B.C.

Cat. 68 is a Late Hellenistic eastern example of a transitional form, announcing the Augustan volute-nozzle Loeschcke type I. It still has the ribbon handle with crossbar often seen on Cnidian lamps as well as on lamps from other eastern workshops. Its shoulder has multiple fine rills and lacks relief decor. It has a flat-bottomed plain discus, small filling-hole, two small air holes, and base-ring. Date: last third of first century B.C.

Cat. 69 shows the transition between Hellenistic lamps and the volute-nozzle lamps of the Augustan period that developed into Loeschcke type I. Among the traces of its Hellenistic antecedents, we may point out the large sunken discus with its still substantial filling-hole surrounded by a ridge, and its carinated body with a small raised base-ring. Its double-volute nozzle has a very unusual flat top. The volute-knobs are linked by a ridge underneath the nozzle. According to Schüller, the place of manufacture or origin of this lamp is Germany. Without any known parallels, the type and date of the lamp are uncertain, and it might be as well classified among Late Republican items as among Hellenistic ones.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 67