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.
Birds appeared frequently on lamps in a variety of guises – songbirds, domestic fowl, water birds, and ones that were kept as exotic pets. To the Romans, the stork was an animal associated with Pietas, and in particular, filial piety. The returning bird to its nest each year demonstrated family loyalty, caring for its older family members. Perhaps such a lamp was a gift to an older family member, showing their child’s devotion.
To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.