Lux Lucerna


Lighting the Ancient World 

A slave took an earthenware lamp from out of his pocket and for more than half an hour imitated a trumpet-player.

Petronius, Satyricon

As Petronius observed, the lamp could have some surprising uses!


Lighting the Ancient World is for anyone who wishes to learn more about the fascinating subject of pottery oil lamps.  All aspects of the lamp's history are covered -

  • development of the lamp in terms of form and fuel efficiency from earliest beginnings to the dawn of the Middle Ages
  • methods of manufacture by hand modelling, wheel-turning and mould-making
  • the art of the lamp throughout its history but focussing mainly upon the highly decorative lamps of the Roman Empire
  • the uses of lamps throughout history, drawing upon ancient literature from Greece and Rome
  • identification of lamps by describing and illustrating key types with a further 45 colour photographs of lamps.

Generously illustrated with 11 full colour plates of lamps from all periods plus 10 pages of black and white drawings.


Inside the Book - Contents


Part 1 The Development of The Lamp
1 The Origin of The Lamp
2 The Greek Lamp
3 The Hellenistic Lamp
4 The Roman Imperial Lamp

Part 2 The Lamp and The Empire
5 Italy and Her Lamps
6 Provincial Lamps

Part 3 Lamps In The Ancient World
7 The Making of Lamps
8 Imitation and Inspiration - The Art of The Lamp
9 Life and Literature - The Uses of The Lamp
10 The Light of Civilization

1 Ancient Chronology and Definitions of Lamp Styles
2 Typology - Making Order From Chaos
3 Further Reading
4 Notes On The Lamps

List of Figures
1 Profiles of Early Lamps
2 Early Greek Lamps
3 Profiles of Greek Lamps
4 Hellenistic Lamps
5 Signatures of Italian and African Lamp Makers (can be seen on right)
6 Lamps From Greece and Asia
7 Common Nozzle Varieties
8 Egyptian Lamps
9 Roman Imperial and Neo-Hellenistic Lamps
10 Genesis of A Roman Imperial Lamp

The Plates
Plate A Open Bowl, Saucer and Folded Lamps
Plate B Greek Lamps
Plate C Hellenistic Lamps
Plate D Utility Lamps
Plate E Roman Imperial Lamps (can be seen on left)
Plate F Mid-Imperial Lamps
Plate G Late Imperial Lamps
Plate H Neo-Hellenistic Lamps
Plate I Late Imperial Lamps
Plate J Islamic Lamps
Plate K Imitation In Lamp Design


Lighting the Ancient World

ISBN 978-1-5272-1958 8

A5 format
152 pages including 11 colour plates

Price:   14.99 GBP plus p&p.
UK p&p - 2.00 GBP
USA p&p - 7.55 GBP

You can order your copy direct by contacting Lux Lucerna at



From the Back Cover



Books on the lamps of the ancient Mediterranean world are usually museum catalogues that are constrained in the information they can provide by whatever lamps they chance to have in their collections. Seldom are they able to examine more over-arching issues, such as, the development of lamps in general or their manufacture and use in everyday life.

Lighting the Ancient World provides a comprehensive survey of pottery lamps from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages. It follows the themes of development, manufacture, art and the uses of lamps to demonstrate how primitive hand-made bowls grew to become the fuel-efficient artistic creations of the Roman Empire.

Using the literary evidence of the lamp users themselves the author also examines a range of issues, such as, lamp sellers, fuels and wicks, as well as exploring what lamps can teach us about the occupations and beliefs of the societies of the day.

Peter Kelsall has been researching pottery lamps for over twenty-five years and Lighting the Ancient World is his first published work on this his most cherished subject.



The writer wishes to record his thanks to Peter Clayton, FSA who very kindly read the manuscript of Lighting the Ancient World and made many valuable suggestions that have undoubtedly improved the finished product.




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