In Antiquity, a lamp was originally called a ‘lychnus‘, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the third century BC. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. Over time, the manufacture of lamps increased, and so did the variation in decoration, which depended mainly on the shape and size of the lamp. The Byzantine Empire inherited this tradition from their predecessors, the Romans. The “slipper” style lamp is typical of Byzantine production and became popular between the 4th and 5th Centuries AD. These lamps were typically made from moulds and had large filling holes surrounded by multiple circular ridges, thus making this piece an excellent Byzantine example.
To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.