Michele Asuni is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Classics at Johns Hopkins University. Before coming to Hopkins, he received a BA and an MA, both in Classical Philology and Ancient History, from the University of Pisa. Primarily a Hellenist, his main interests lie in archaic and classical Greek literature and culture, textual criticism, and Silver Latin. He is currently completing a dissertation on the aesthetics of color in Greek literature, from Homer to Heliodorus.

Select Bibliography

Bailey, D. M. Greek and Roman Pottery Lamps. (Portsmouth, 1963). A Catalogue of the Lamps in the British Museum. (London, 1975). Szentleleky, T. Ancient Lamps. (Amsterdam, 1969). Vernant, J-P. “L’autre de l’homme. La face de Gorgô”, in Olender, M. Pour Léon Poliakov. Le racisme. Mythes et sciences, (Paris, 1981), 141-156. Wissowa, G, Kroll, W. and […]

Running Hare

This lamp’s discus decoration features a hare running to the right—an image that might have evoked either a larger hunting scene or a more bucolic depiction of agricultural life. This image of a hare may also be interpreted as a representation of xenia. Xenia is the plural form of the Greek xenion, a word that […]

Lamp with Wreathed Silenus

In Greek mythology, Silenus was the tutor of the god Dionysus. His features are similar to those of a satyr, but he is usually depicted as being considerably older. Silenus was often featured in comedies and satyr plays (e.g. Euripides’ Cyclops and Plautus’ Rudens). As early as the 5th century BCE, the terms silenus and […]

Centaur Playing the Lyre

This is a mold-made pottery lamp with a volute nozzle. The discus scene features a centaur playing a lyre. The filling hole is beneath the centaur’s hind feet. The lamp had a brown, glossy finish that has largely worn off. On the lamp’s base is an inscription that records the potter’s name: FAVSTI. A Roman […]

Apotropaic Talisman Against the “Evil Eye”

This lamp’s discus decoration depicts several symbols which were thought to be powerful deterrents against the “evil eye.”  The “evil eye,” a redolent concept in several Mediterranean cultures, was believed to originate from a malevolent person looking at someone with intense envy or dislike. The figures represented on this object are closely associated with the […]

Mercury Riding a Griffin

This lamp features the god Mercury (Greek Hermes) riding a griffin, a mythological creature (half lion and half eagle) associated with the world of the dead, or Hades. The god appears in the form of a winged youth carrying his most typical attribute, a magical staff called the caduceus through which he performed his tasks. […]

Krater with Two Panthers

The discus decoration contains a krater (a type of vase commonly used for mixing wine) flanked by two panthers. The border of the discus presents a floral-vegetal decoration. A similar composition can be seen in this example from the British Museum (Lamp Q3106). The krater, the panther and the vegetal decoration (probably vines) were part […]

Charioteer on a Biga

Together with gladiatorial combat, chariot races were a popular form of spectacle in ancient Rome. Races involving bigae (two-horse chariots) and quadrigae (four-horse chariots) were an essential part of the ludi, or “games,” usually held in a circus.  The decoration on this lamp’s discus depicts a tense moment during such a competition.  The charioteer is […]

Jupiter and Eagle

The discus is decorated with a male figure (Jupiter) holding a staff or scepter.  In front of Jupiter, one sees an eagle carrying a thunderbolt.  In Greek and Roman mythology, the eagle served as Jupiter’s personal messenger, and it is said to have carried the youth Ganymede to Olympus, where he served as the gods’ […]

The Art of Light

In antiquity, lamps were a common source of artificial light in private and public spaces, even though torches were probably the preferred choice for large open areas. Lamps could also serve as votive offerings in shrines and burials. While lamps could be made of either metal or clay, the latter was the most popular material, […]