Roman terracotta oil lamp with figurative decoration, 300 A.D.

This Roman oil lamp with a circular shape presents its upper part decorated with two figures, possible representations of Roman deities. The central figure wears a characteristic truncated cone headdress that is attributable to the god Serapis. The cult of Serapis was introduced into the Egyptian pantheon in the 3rd century B.C. by Ptolemy I in an attempt to unify the Egyptian god Osiris and the sacred bull Apis. A version of this unity was already worshipped by the Egyptians under the name of Osirapis. However, Ptolemy changed the iconography of the god, his image taking many similarities with that of Zeus (divine garments), Asklepios (healing), Hades (the afterlife), Helios (the sun) and Dionysus (fertility). The oil lamp were lamps used since prehistoric times. They were fed with olive oil and had from one to a dozen wicks. Some had handles, so they could be carried from one room to another, and they could also be carried by actors in plays or by participants in ritual activities, especially funerary ones. The Phoenicians were going to popularize their use and thanks to trade they were going to be distributed all over the Mediterranean. More popular will be the Roman and Greek ones that will be made in a mould, and with several scenes, that due to their economic price and interest used to become collectibles.


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