The Byzantine Empire existed as a continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces, meaning that the form of these oil lamps shows strong similarities to the Roman style. Christianity was the predominant religion in the Byzantine world, and this is reflected in the decoration of the lamp, which could have been used for either domestic or ceremonial purposes. From Byzantine into early Islamic times, lamp decoration became more abstract, featuring lines, crosses, dots, and geometric shapes. Lamps like this one have also been called “animal head” lamps, due to the appearance of the knob on the handle, or “slipper lamps,” referring to the overall shape.
To discover more about Byzantine art, please visit our relevant blog post: The Byzantine Empire, Art and Christianity.