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Genuine, Gorgeous, Intricately Patterned, Well Preserved Ancient Byzantine/Phoenician/Early Christian Holyland (Judaea) Terra Cotta Oil Lamp about 500 A.D.
CLASSIFICATION: Byzantine/Phoenician/Judaean Terra Cotta Oil Lamp with Palm Frond Design.
ATTRIBUTION: Eastern Roman/Byzantine Empire (Ancient Accho, Phoenicia), Sixth Century A.D.
Length: 104 millimeters (4 1/8+ inches).
Width: 68 millimeters (2 2/3 inches).
Height: 38 millimeters (1 1/2 inches).
CONDITION: Excellent. Good integrity, no cracks, breakage or repairs. Soot stains around wick hole consistent with use in ancient Judaea.
DETAIL: This is a very nicely preserved terracotta oil lamp dated to the fifth century A.D. Known to many collectors as a "Byzantine Slipper Lamp", it is from the period shortly after the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire, leaving Byzantium in the East in isolation, and facing the very "barbarians" who had plundered Rome. The Roman Provinces of Judaea, Palestine, Phoenice, and Syria were now part of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. Its origin is the area referred to as "The Holy Land", during Roman occupation, just to the north of the province of Judaea. The top surface of the oil lamp portrays a very ornate stylized palm branch design around the entire perimeter of the vessel. There is also a raised collar around the fill hole, a raised accent ridge between the fill hole and the wick hole, and another raised collar around the wick hole. As can be seen the design is even after the passage of fifteen centuries, still very sharp and distinct.
Though by no means rare, it is uncommon to find such a nice design in such an exceptionally well-preserved state. The style is very characteristic of the lamps manufactured for domestic use in the Byzantine Provinces of Palestine, Phoenice, and Judaea. The palm frond was a symbol which even today is universally associated with the Levant Region of the Middle East. Such lamps were mold-produced in two parts then assembled by hand. Such oil lamps were produced in huge quantities both for local consumption as well as export throughout the Byzantine Empire and beyond throughout the Mediterranean. Oil was filled into the center hole, and a wick placed in the front hole. The lamp is in very good condition, without breakage or chips or repairs. The integrity of the vessel is unimpeached, it is truly in very good condition, a remarkable, poignant, and evocative relic not only of the glory that was the Eastern Roman World of Byzantium, but of early Judaism and Christianity - as well as a reminder of the remarkable empire that was Phoenica.
HISTORY: Pottery is amongst the most abundant artifacts unearthed during excavations of Roman, Byzantine, and ancient Judaean and Hebrew sites. Abundant throughout the empire, specimens such as this were even routinely and systematically exported by the Romans and the Byzantine successors. Manufactured throughout the empire the product was widely distributed throughout the Mediterranean world and even beyond into Britain, Spain and Germany. Oil lamps like this were utilitarian implements both for the kitchen, dining table, and for general household lighting. Think of them not only as a table lamp, but also as a flashlight. Most terra cotta pieces such as this were functional items, and tended to be rather plain - but oil lamps were oftentimes an exception, and could be ornately decorated. The most widely used pottery in the ancient world were oil lamps, bottles, unguentariums, pitchers, bowls and plates. Their basic shapes remained unchanged for over a thousand years. The bottles and pitchers were used to store wine, water, oil and other liquids.
This particular specimen came from the ancient city of Accho. Although Accho, present-day Acre is now part of Israel it was once part the Roman Province of Syria-Phoenice, adjacent to the Roman Province of Judaea. In fact, it is quite possible that this lamp was produced in Judaea and "exported" to Accho, less than 100 miles North of Jerusalem and present-day Tel Aviv. The ancient empire of Phoenicia, destined to become both part of the Hellenic and Roman Empires, was in its own right one of the more significant ancient cultures in the world's history. The area that ultimately became known as Phoenicia (derived from the Greek name Phoinikes) was at the western end of the Fertile Crescent, and was settled sometime around 3000 B.C. There anthropologists believe that the westward expansion of these peoples from Mesopotamia met the Mediterranean.
The earliest record of the Phoenicians is from about 1600 B.C. There they developed one of the earliest ancient and great seafaring Western cultures, using commerce as their principal motivation and source of influence. In fact, their name for themselves seems to have been Kena'ani (or Canaanites), a word which in Hebrew means "merchants." The prophet Ezekiel in his Biblical foretelling of the fall of one of Phoenicia's great cities, Tyre, reviews the extensive scope of Phoenician trade. It is believed that Byblos was the first city founded in Phoenicia, followed shortly thereafter by Tyre and Sidon. The later two cities gained prominence after about 1300 B.C., when Byblos was repeatedly sacked and razed by successive waves of raiders. The Phoenicians developed a vast commercial empire with settlements which stretched as far as North Africa and the coast of Spain.
Phoenicia was centered along the coast of what is now Lebanon, but as the centuries past it expanded along the coast north and south. Ugarit to the north was absorbed, and to the south substantial settlements grew into cities which survive in modern Israel; Accho (contemporary Acre), Joppa (Tel Aviv-Yafo) and Dor (Nasholim). However the Phoenicians were more of a trading empire, and never much of a political or military empire like the ancient Greeks and Romans who succeeded them. Consequentially Phoenicia was almost always under the dominion of another political-military empire. After about 1000 B.C. for instance, the Assyrians required regular tribute payments for their king. Before the Assyrians were the Egyptians, and following the Assyrians were the Persians, then the Greeks under Alexander, and finally the Romans.
However regardless of what throne claimed the land and the cities of Phoenicia, they nonetheless maintained economic independence. To the ancient Phoenicians the first order of business was business, and political considerations were secondary. It was only a question of to which throne tribute was to be paid. Thus the ancient Phoenicians were compelled to pushed west in search of new resources and commodities, founding great cities like Utica, and Carthage, a center that grew to become the biggest city in the western Mediterranean and the principal maritime and commercial center. In the process, and formed long-lasting alliances with many other regional powers such as the Kingdom of Israel. Unfortunately, as with much of what was once Phoenicia, little remains of the great cities that stood at the center of this ancient maritime power. None of the original buildings they lived in and temples they built are still standing, and there is no great wealth of art depicting exactly how they lived.
Unfortunately the Roman Empire was not satisfied with anything less than complete subjugation. Conflict between Phoenicia and the Roman Empire in the 3rd century B.C. (the Punic Wars) led to the total destruction of Carthage in particular, and the Phoenician Empire in general. The end witnessed a dispersion of its forces and people, and, for all practical purposes, the end of the era of Phoenicia's part in the development of the Mediterranean. However the Phoenician people themselves continued to thrive, trade, and flourish, despite their incorporation into the Roman province of Syria. The Roman Empire had become the paramount player in the region, and would tolerate no political, economic, or ideological competitor. And so the great Phoenician Empire was crushed underneath the feet of the Roman Legions and disappeared. However the great legacy of the alphabet, higher learning, and the capital cities of Phoenicia's past - Byblos, Sidon, Tyre, Ugarit and Carthage, survive even to today as testaments to the vitality of that ancient empire.
The Byzantine Empire was the eastern remainder of the great Roman Empire, and stretched from its capital in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey) through much of Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, and small portions of North Africa and the Middle East. Prior to the fifth century collapse of the Western Roman Empire, one of Rome's greatest emperors, Constantine the Great, established a second capital city for the Roman Empire in the East at Byzantium, present day Turkey. Constantine The Great sought to reunite the Roman Empire, centered upon Christian faith, by establishing a second "capital" for the Eastern Roman, away from the pagan influences of the city of Rome. Established as the new capital city for the Eastern Roman Empire in the fourth century, Constantine named the city in his own honor, "Constantinople".
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, the "Byzantine Empire", lasted for another thousand years as the cultural, religious and economic center of Eastern Europe. At the same time, as a consequence of the fall of the Western Roman Empire, most of the rest of Europe suffered through one thousand years of the "dark ages". As the center of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was one of the most elaborate, civilized, and wealthy cities in all of history. The Christian Church eventually became the major political force in the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine art, God rather than man stood at the center of the universe. Constantine the Great is also credited with being the first Christian Roman Emperor, and was eventually canonized by the Orthodox Church. Christianity had of course been generally outlawed prior to his reign.
Under the Byzantine Empire, Christianity became more than just a faith, it was the theme of the entire empire, its politics, and the very meaning of life. Christianity formed an all-encompassing way of life, and the influence of the Byzantine Empire reached far both in terms of time and geography, certainly a predominant influence in all of Europe up until the Protestant Reformation. In Byzantine art, God rather than man stood at the center of the universe. Representations of Christ, the Virgin, and various saints predominated the coinage of the era. The minting of the coins remained crude however, and collectors today prize Byzantine coins for their extravagant variations; ragged edges, "cupped" coins, etc. Other artifacts such as rings, pendants, and pottery are likewise prized for their characteristically intricate designs.
SHIPPING: These antiquities come from a number of collections which by and large originated here in Eastern Europe. As well, additional specimens are occasionally acquired from other institutions and dealers, principally in Eastern Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. All of these artifacts are now in the United States and are available for immediate delivery via U.S. Mail. All purchases are backed by an unlimited guarantee of satisfaction and authenticity. If for any reason you are not entirely satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a complete and immediate refund of your entire purchase price. A certificate of authenticity (COA) is available upon request.
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