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 p236  Candelabrum

Unsigned article on pp236‑237 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CANDELA′BRUM, was originally a candlestick, but was afterwards used to support lamps (λυχνοῦχος), in which signification it most commonly occurs. The candelabra of this kind were usually made to stand upon the ground, and were of a considerable height. The most common kind were made of wood (Cic. ad Qu. Fr. III.7; Martial, XIV.44; Petron. 95; Athen. XV p700); but those which have been found in Herculaneum and Pompeii are mostly of bronze. Sometimes they were made of the more precious metals and even of jewels, as was the one which Antiochus intended to dedicate to Jupiter Capitolinus (Cic. Verr. IV.28). In the temples of the gods and palaces there were frequently large candelabra made of marble, and fastened to the ground (Museo Pio-Clem. IV.1.5, V.1.3).

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There is a great resemblance in the general plan and appearance of most of the candelabra which have been found. They usually consist of three parts:— 1. the foot (βάσις); 2. the shaft or stem (καυλός); 3. the plinth or tray (δισκός), large enough for a lamp to stand on, or with a socket to receive a wax candle. The foot usually consists of three lions' or griffins' feet, ornamented with leaves; and the shaft, which is either plain or fluted, generally ends in a kind of capital, on which the tray rests for supporting the lamp. Sometimes we find a figure between the capital and the tray, as is seen in the candelabrum on the right hand in the annexed woodcut, which is taken from the Museo Borbonico (IV. pl. 57), and represents a candelabrum found in Pompeii. The one on the left hand is also a representation of a candelabrum found in the same city (Mus. Borb. VI pl. 61), and is made with a sliding shaft, by which the light might be raised or lowered at pleasure.

The best candelabra were made at Aegina and Tarentum (Plin. H. N. XXXIV.6).

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There are also candelabra of various other forms, though those which have been given above are by far the most common. They sometimes consist of  p237 a figure supporting a lamp (Mus. Borb. VII pl. 15), or of a figure, by the side of which the shaft is placed with two branches, each of which terminates in a flat disc, upon which a lamp was placed. A candelabrum of the latter kind is given in the preceding woodcut (Mus. Borb. IV pl. 59). The stem is formed of a liliaceous plant; and at the base is a mass of bronze, on which a Silenus is seated engaged in trying to pour wine from a skin which he holds in his left hand, into a cup in his right.

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There was another kind of candelabrum, entirely different from those which have been described, which did not stand upon the ground, but was placed upon the table. These candelabra usually consist of pillars, from the capitals of which several lamps hang down, or of trees, from whose branches lamps are also suspended. The following woodcut represents a very elegant candelabrum of this kind, found in Pompeii (Mus. Borb. II pl. 13).

The original, including the stand, is three feet high. The pillar is not placed in the centre, but at one end of the plinth, which is the case in almost every candelabrum of this description yet found. The plinth is inlaid in imitation of a vine, the leaves of which are of silver, the stem and fruit of bright bronze. On one side is an altar with wood and fire upon it; and on the other a Bacchus riding on a tiger. (Becker, Gallus, vol. II p206, &c.).

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Page updated: 29 Oct 17