The Power of Light: Λύχνος in the Ritual and Religious Life of Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Egypt as evidenced by Greek papyri and ostraka


The aim of this paper is to give insight into the religious significance of oil lamps in Graeco-Roman and Byzantine Egypt through the examination of the surviving Greek papyri and ostraka as well as the sources of Greek and Latin literature. Firstly, we place emphasis on the terms denoting this artifact (λύχνος, λυχνία etc.), as well as the ritualistic process of its lighting (λυχναψία, λυχνοκαΐα). Another section is devoted to the particular role of λύχνοι in Egyptian rituals (worship ceremonies, burial practices etc.) and the continuation of their significance from the pagan era into the Christian.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i99788883051760p682

Keywords: Oil lamps; religion; Egypt

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