The Messenger God Mercury (Hermes in Greek mythology) played a variety of roles within Roman society. In the Roman world, his ability of safe transport, as a messenger god, connected him to merchants and trading, as well as acting as a guide for the souls of the dead to the underworld. According to the Homeric hymns, the caduceus, a staff intertwined with snakes was believed to have been a gift to Hermes from the God Apollo, in return for the gift of a lyre which Hermes had fashioned for Apollo. Of the Roman gods, Mercury seems to have been one of the most popular, with Mercurian iconography representing a significant proportion of the figurative decoration found in material and visual culture in Pompeii.
The Roman oil lamp, originally called a ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, has been almost unparalleled in its distribution throughout the Empire. First developed towards the end of the Hellenistic period, oil lamps were to keep their general shape longer than any other item of pottery throughout the Mediterranean. The vast trade networks set with the expansion of the Roman Empire allowed this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa.
To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.