(English) Oil to Light the Way
It is said that the Phoenicians invented the lamps in which, according to Herodotus, salt was mixed with oil and then lit. The Greeks then inherited this system of lighting. Olive oil fuelled the lamps by which Aristotle would polish his speeches, whose accomplishment was a reflection of the long waking hours he worked on them and which were defined by his contemporaries as “smelling of lamplight”. In turn the Romans received lamps of bronze, clay and oil lamps. Such lighting required much attention as the oil had to be frequently replenished.
The Romans made an art of producing and decoration these lamps, which they did with exquisite taste. They were often to be found in the catacombs and thence their subsequent use in Christian cemeteries and chapels. In the cathedral of Seville there were as many oil lamps as days in the year. Similarly in the Great Mosque of Cordoba, during its time of greatest splendour, every year a thousand arrobas (about 12.5 litres) of oil were burned for light.
The Israelites also turned to oil for light, using only the purest quality for their votive lamps.