Tuesday, February 1, 2011

On the Street Lighting



I was perusing the book "Gallus: or, Roman scenes of the time of Augustus. With notes and excursuses illustrative of the manners and customs of the Romans" by Wilhelm Adolf Becker, published by J. W. Parker, 1849. It does not concern us much except that in speaking of lighting (or absence thereof) in ancient Rome he notes:

"There does not seem to have been any street-lighting at Rome, till very late, as no mention is made of it before the fourth century. As far as Rome is concerned, I find no proof of it at all. For the passage quoted from Ammanius Marcellus. xiv. refers not to Rome, but to Antiochia;
"adhibitis paucis clam ferro succinctis vesperi per tabernas palabatur et compita, quaeritando Greco sermone,cujus erat impendio gnarus, quid de Caesare quisque sentiret. Et haec confidenter agebat in urbe, ubi pernoctantium luminum claritudo dierum solet imitari fulgorem".

The lighting of the streets in Antiochia in the fourth century, had already been placed beyond a doubt by the passages of Libanius".

Becker is referring to Libanius' comments in the Antiochikos:
"267. Here he is not "lord of men," neither does he draw men to himself against their will, or lull them to rest by force, but we alone of all people have shaken off his tyranny over our eyelids, and to the torch of the sun there succeeded other torches which surpass the festival of the lamps in Egypt, and among us night differs from day only in the kind of the light. Night is the same as day for the handicrafts, and some work vigorously while others laugh gently and give themselves up to song. The night is shared indeed by Hephaestus and Aphrodite, for some work at the forge and others dance; but in other cities Endymion is more honored".

The main takeaway from this is that Antioch was quite superior in this aspect of its civic amenities than was the capital of the Roman Empire.

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