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Mouldmade lamp; circular body with convex profile; slightly raised base, surrounded with a groove, within there is a mark. Voluted nozzle with flat upper side end angular tip. No handle. Sloping, wide shoulder. A groove delimits the inward-sloping, concave discus with an asymmetrically located opening. On the discus, a female donkey, facing left. Yellow clay and finger-marked, brownish slip.

Details

  • Title: Lamp
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: First century AD.
  • Physical Dimensions: 7,6 cm, with4,5 cm [with base], 10,8 cm, 2,6 cm
  • Rights: cc-by . https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
  • External Link: Object at Museum of Mediterranean (Medelhavsmuseet)
  • Ancient mysteries, text: The only first-person account of a mystery experience we have relates to initiation into the mysteries of Isis. Interestingly enough it is contained within the only ancient Roman prose novel in Latin to survive in its entirety, namely the Metamorphoses by Apuleius, written during the late second century CE. This comic and satirical work tells the story of Lucius who is deeply interested in magic. While trying to perform a spell to transform into a bird, he accidentally transforms into a donkey and travels throughout Greece in search for a cure. Lucius ultimately winds up in Corinth where he, on the night of the full moon, tries to purify himself by bathing in the sea and then praying to the Moon. When he falls asleep that night a goddess appears, telling him that she is the queen of all gods and worshipped under many names, but that her true name is Isis. She instructs Lucius to attend the procession in her honour the next day and to eat the garland of roses carried by the priest. Upon doing so Lucius is immediately cured and follows the procession to the temple of Isis. Lucius rents a home in the temple precinct and works as a temple servant until the goddess indicates that the time has come for him to be initiated. After receiving instructions from the priest Lucius fasts for ten days. At night he is then led into the inner chamber of the temple. He claims that he will not describe what happened in there, instead offering only a highly symbolic description of how he travelled to the boundary of death, only to then be carried back to life and seeing the sun blazing in the middle of the night, as well as coming face to face with all the gods. The initiation is then followed by several days of feasting. This particular part of the Metamorphoses is quite different from the crudity and comedy of the earlier parts. Some scholars have argued that it should be taken at face value as a serious account of the mysteries of Isis; others claim that it must be satirical, pointing to how Lucius is instructed to undergo repeated initiations and spend more and more money in the process. However, it has been pointed out that it is possible to see the work as comic without it being a satire of the cult of Isis. Instead of being cheated of his money, Lucius actually finds himself becoming a wealthy and successful lawyer. It is Lucius himself who is the butt of the joke: as in the rest of the novel, he completely fails to understand what is happening to him. Further, there is evidence to suggest that the rituals described, including the sequence of initiations, give a fairly accurate account of what was involved in the mysteries of Isis, with some of these elements also being common to other mystery cults. This Roman terracotta lamp is decorated with a grazing donkey, an animal described by several ancient authors as being stubborn, servile and stupid. The lamp, dated to the first century CE, was acquired from Consul Ehrenhoff at Tangier, Morocco.

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