III. Roman-Period Clay Lamps

One-ring Suspension Lamps


A suspension device applied to a medium-sized lamp (about 8–10 cm long) is apparently absent among early Greek and Hellenistic lamps, although some large ring lamps (also called corona lamps) might have been suspended instead of being placed on stands or on pieces of furniture (see cat. 573). Early corona lamps are rarely found intact, and the presence of suspension rings on them is not always discernible. The device was often used on bronze lamps, and most such examples have three suspension rings because of their weight.

The one-ring suspension device is usually absent among volute-lamps of Loeschcke types I, II, III, V, and VIII; there are, however, a few exceptions, for instance, Bailey BM II, Q 955, pl. 20 (Loeschcke III); and Menzel 1969, p. 130, fig. 130 (a two-nozzled lamp related to Loeschcke type VIII). One-ring suspensions became popular with Firmalampen; see, for instance, Buchi 1975, nos. 374, 383–84, 602, 1167, 1536, 1587, 1593, 1598, and 1601–2 (the last two in bronze). Later clay lamps could be equipped with three suspension rings, for instance, Bussière 2000, no. 7182, pl. 144; nos. 7185–89, pl. 146; and no. 7203, pl. 148. Some plastic lamps may also be equipped with one or three suspension rings. Some could only be suspended (cat. 592, cat. 609), and some could have been either suspended or placed on a flat surface (cats. 593, 605–6). For this reason we prefer to classify them among the plastic or figurine lamps (see section I b. Plastic lamps, before cat. 586).

Cats. 569–70 are variant forms of the canonic Firmalampen, whose shoulder-panels they have kept. The peculiar nozzle shape of cat. 569, whose place of manufacture or origin is unknown, relates it to Bussière form C VII 1 c, a shape locally produced near Sétif, Algeria (Bussière 2000, p. 85, nos. 802–5). Cat. 570, purchased in Cologne, Germany, has an exact parallel in the Bonn University Museum, dated ca. A.D. 100–150 (Hübinger 1993, pp. 101–2, no. 185, pl. 24). No comparanda have been found for cat. 571, purchased in Cologne, Germany, nor for cat. 572, which both have their two nozzles on opposite ends, thus the dating is cautious: second to third century A.D.(?). Taking the Algerian examples into account, an earlier date is suggested for cat. 569: end of the first to the beginning of the second century A.D.

Banner image: Detail of cat. 569