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Pottery lamp in the form of a ship


Length: 63.000 cm
Height: 18.500 cm

Durand Collection

GR 1862.4-14.1 (Lamps Q 2722)

Room 70: Roman Empire

    Pottery lamp in the form of a ship

    Roman, about AD 70-120
    Made in Cnidus, modern Turkey; found in the sea off Pozzuoli, southern Italy

    A powerful lamp

    This ornate, mould-made lamp could accommodate up to twenty wicks, and would have generated a considerable amount of light. The prow (front) has a large single nozzle with two volutes. Above this is the deck area with a panel of relief decoration showing a dwarf at an iron-smelting furnace, and one of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux), with his horse. Between these scenes is a tabula ansata (a framed and inscribed plaque), bearing the Greek word (euploia) meaning 'a good voyage', but also a name used for Cnidian Aphrodite. In a triangular panel in the stern of the ship are the figures of Serapis, holding a steering-oar, being crowned by Isis. On the base is a Greek inscription which translates: 'Take me, the Helioserapis'. The orange-brown clay of the ship was once covered with an orange slip, now largely worn away, and there are several traces of marine encrustation from its time under the sea.

    'Helioserapis', used here as the name of the ship, was an amalgamation of the names of the Greek god Helios, the sun, often linked with Apollo, and Serapis the saviour god of Hellenistic Egypt, whose fame was carried throughout the Mediterranean by Rome. The name of the ship and the heavily religious imagery of most of the decoration suggest that the lamp may have been used in a place of cult, such as a temple or shrine.

    D. Bailey, A catalogue of the lamps in th, vol. 3 (London, 1988)


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    On display: Room 70: Roman Empire