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LUCERNA (λύχνος), an oil lamp. The Greeks and Romans originally used candles; but in later times candles were chiefly confined to the houses of the lower classes. [CANDELA] A great number of ancient lamps has come down to us; the greater part of which are made of terra-cotta (τροχήλατοι, Aristoph. Eccl. 1), but also a considerable number of bronze. Most of the lamps are of an oval form, and flat upon the top, on which there are frequently figures in relief. (See the woodcuts, Vol. I. pp. 211, 619.) In the lamps there are one or more round holes according to the number of wicks (ellychnia) burnt in it; and as these holes were called from an obvious analogy, μυκτῆρες or μύξαι, literally nostrils or nozzles, the lamp was also called Monomyxos, Dimyxos or bilychnis, Trimyxos, or Polymyxos, according as it contained one, two, three, or a greater number of nozzles or holes for the wicks; and there is besides the central hole for pouring in the oil, usually covered with a lid. The following example of a dimyxos lucerna, upon which there is a winged boy with a goose, is taken from the Museo Borbonico, vol. iv. pl. 14.

Lucerna. (
Mus. Borb.
iv. pl. 14.)

For the polymyxos cf. Mart. 14.41:

Illustrem cum tota meis convivia flammis,
Totque geram myxas, una lucerna vocor;
and see the woodcut Vol. I. p. 331.

The next woodcut, taken from the same work (vol. i. pl. 10), represents one of the most beautiful bronze lamps which has yet been found. Upon it is the figure of a standing Silenus.

Lucerna. (
Mus. Borb.
i. pl. 10.)

The lamps sometimes hung in chains from the ceiling of the room (Verg. A. 1.726; Petron. 30; Stat. Theb. 1.521), but generally stood upon [p. 2.82]a stand. [CANDELABRUM] Sometimes a figure holds the lamp, as in the annexed woodcut (Museo

Lucerna. (
Mus. Borb.
vii. Pl. 15.)

Borbon. vol. vii. pl. 15), which also exhibits the needle or instrument which served to trim the wick, and is attached to the figure by means of a chain. (Comp. Verg. Moret. 11, “Et producit acu stupas humore carentes.” )

We read of lucernae cubiculares, balneares, tricliniares, sepulcrales, &c.; but these names were only given to the lamps on account of the purposes to which they were applied, and not on account of a difference in shape. The lucernae cubiculares were burnt in bed-chambers all night. (Mart. 14.39, 10.38.)

Perfumed oil was sometimes burnt in the lamps (Petron. 70; Mart. 10.38, 9). The sepulchral lamps were not merely placed and left, but were lighted as a pious duty. So in the following condition of freedom: “Saccus servus meus et Eutychia ancilla mea sub hac conditione liberi sunto, ut monumento meo alternis mensibus lucernam accendant et solemnia mortis peragant” (Dig. 40, 4, 44).

(Passeri, Lucernae fictiles; Birch, Ancient Pottery, 2.277; Marquardt, Privatleben, 645; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.86; Gallus, 2.390.)

[W.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (7):
    • Aristophanes, Ecclesiazusae, 1
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.726
    • Statius, Thebias, 1
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 10.38
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 10.9
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.39
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.41
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