Lamp with Chiron the Centaur and Achilles.
Fired clay. 10,4 cm
Inventory number: H1176
This oil lamp renders a legendary creature, half man, half horse, that is known as a centaur. He is standing facing a young man with a lyre. The motif illustrates a scene from the world of Homeric legend in which Achilles is being taught by the wise centaur Chiron. The lamps originated in the Near East, where they can be traced back to the third millennium BC. They then continued as one of the most important sources of light in Antiquity. The lamps were usually made in fired clay, but also in other materials such as bronze or marble. Like the present example, the clay lamps were cast in a two-part mould and could be provided with one or more spouts through which the wick emerged. This type of lamp is today known as a volute lamp on account of the delicate volutes on either side of the spout. The decoration was usually reserved for the top of the lamp and encompasses a host of different motifs. Lamps like this with heroic motifs were popular in Roman times, but the gods and other mythological motifs were also common.