193. Three Terracotta Oil Lamps

Carthage, Tunisia, 2nd–4th century
Size: 11.5 cm long

These three lamps, all from what is now Tunisia and then part of the Roman province of Numidia, tell an interesting story, which is dismal or inspirational, depending on your point of view. Two, dating from the 2nd–3rd century, show sexual scenes, a couple on one, an orgy with three men and a woman on the other. Whatever one makes of such things, they seem to be having a good time. The third lamp, shiny and clean by comparison with the decaying surfaces of the other two, is emblazoned with the Chi-Ro, the symbol of Christ. No more fooling around.