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. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. 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, which led to the development of several provincial variations.
According to legend, the sphinx was sent by the gods to plague the town of Thebes. This continued until Oedipus took up her challenge, and when he solved the Sphinx’s riddle, she cast herself off the mountainside in despair. Sphinxes were popular in ancient art. In archaic vase paintings they often appear amongst a procession of animals and fabulous creatures such as lions and bird-bodied sirens.
To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.