A piece in the American Chronicle mentions the phenomenon of ever-burning lamps … here are the examples which are of interest to us:Plutarch wrote of a lamp that burned over the door of a temple to Jupiter Ammon. According to the priests, the lamp remained alight for centuries without any fuel and neither wind nor rain could put it out.
St. Augustine described an Egyptian temple sacred to Venus with a lamp which wind and water could not extinguish. He declared it to be the work of the devil.
In 527 A.D., at Edessa, Syria, during the reign of emperor Justinian, soldiers discovered an ever-burning lamp in a niche over a gateway, elaborately enclosed to protect it from the air. According to the inscription, it was lit in 27 A.D. The lamp had burned for 500 years before the soldiers who found it, destroyed it.
In 140, near Rome a lamp was found burning in the tomb of Pallas, son of king Evander. The lamp, which had been alight for over 2,000 years, could not be extinguished by ordinary methods. It turned out that neither water nor blowing on the flame stopped it from burning. The only way to extinguish the remarkable flame was to drain off the strange liquid contained in the lamp bowl.
During the Papacy of Paul III a burning lamp was found in a tomb on the Appian Way at Rome. The tomb was believed to belong to Tulliola, the daughter of Cicero. She died in 44 B.C. The lamp that had burned in the sealed vault for 1,550 years was extinguished when exposed to the air.
Interesting about this particular discovery is also the unknown transparent liquid in which the deceased was floating. By putting the body in this liquid, the ancients managed to preserve the corpse in such a good condition that it appeared as if death had occurred only a few days ago.
IN the Papacy of Paul the Third, in the Appian Way, where abundance of the chief heathens of old were laid, a sepulchre was opened, where was found the entire body of a fair virgin swimming in a wonderful juice, which kept it from putrefaction so well, that the face seemed no way impaired, but lively and very beautiful. Her hair was yellow, tied up artificially, and kept together with a golden circlet or band. Under her feet burnt lamps, the light of which was extinguished at the opening of the sepulchre. By some inscriptions found about the tomb it appeared that she must have lain there fifteen hundred years. Who she was was never known, although many concluded her to be ‘Tulliola’, the daughter of Cicero. This discovery has been reported from various hands.
Cedrenus makes mention of a lamp, which, together with an image of Christ, was found at Edessa in the reign of Justinian the Emperor. It was set over a certain gate there, and elaborately enclosed and shut out from the air. This lamp, as appeared from the date attached to it, was lighted soon after Christ was crucified. It was found burning–as in fact it had done for five hundred years–by the soldiers of Cosroes, king of Persia; by whom, at this strange discovery and plunder, the oil was taken out and cast into the fire. As it is reported, this wild act occasioned such a plague as brought death upon numbers of the forces of Cosroes, sufficiently punished for their sacrilegious mischief.
At the demolition of our monasteries here in England, there was found in the monument which was supposed to be that of Constantius Chlorus, father to the great Constantine, a burning lamp, which was thought to have continued burning there ever since his burial, which was about three hundred years after Christ. The ancient Romans are said to have been able to maintain lights in their sepulchres for an indefinite time, by an essence or oil obtained from liquid gold; which was an achievement assumed to have been only known to the Rosicrucians, who boasted this among some other of their stupendous arts.
Baptista Porta, in his treatise on Natural Magic, relates that about the year 1550, in the island of Nesis, in the Bay of Naples, a marble sepulchre of a certain Roman was discovered; upon the opening of which a burning lamp, affording a powerful illumination, was discovered. The light of this lamp paled on the admission of the air, and it was speedily extinguished. It appeared from undoubted tokens in the mode of inscription that this wonderful lamp had been placed in its present receptacle before the advent of the Saviour. Those who saw the lamp declared that the effulgence was of the most dazzling character; that the light did not flicker or change, but burnt marvellously steadily.
A most celebrated lamp, called that of Pallas, the son of Evander, who, as Virgil relates, was killed by Turnus (the account will be found in the tenth book of Virgil’s Æneid), is that reported as discovered not far from Rome, as far forward in time as the year 1401. It is related that a countryman was digging in the neighbourhood, and that delving deeper than usual, he came upon a stone sepulchre, wherein there was discovered the body of a man of extraordinary size, as perfect and natural as if recently interred.
Above the head of the deceased there was found a lamp, burning with the supposed fabulous perpetual fire. Neither wind nor water, nor any other superinduced means, could extinguish it; but the flame was mastered eventually by the lamp being bored at bottom and broken by the astonished investigators of this consummate light. The man enclosed in this monument had a large wound in the breast. That this was the body of Pallas was evident from the inscription on the tomb, which was as follows:
Pallas, Evander’s son, whom Turnus’ spear
In battle slew, of mighty bulk, lies here.A very remarkable lamp was discovered about the year 1500 near Ateste, a town belonging to Padua, in Italy, by a rustic who in his explorations in a field came upon an urn containing another urn, in which last was deposited one of these much-doubted miraculous lamps. The aliment of this strange lamp appeared to be a very exquisite crystal liquor, by the ever-during powers of which the lamp must have continued to shine for upwards of fifteen hundred years. And unless this lamp had been so suddenly exposed to the action of the air, it is supposed that it might have continued to burn for any time. This lamp, endowed with such unbelievable powers, was discovered to be the workmanship of an unknown contriver named Maximus Olibius, who must have possessed the profoundest skill in chemical art. On the greater urn some lines were inscribed in Latin, recording the perpetuation of this wonderful secret of the preparation and the starting of these (almost) immortal flames.
St. Austin mentions a lamp that was found in a temple dedicated to Venus, which,, notwithstanding that it was exposed to the open weather, could never be consumed or extinguished.
Ludovicus Vives, his commentator, in a supplementary mention of ever-burning lamps, cites an instance of another similar lamp which was discovered a little before his time, and which was considered to have been burning for a thousand and fifty years.
It is supposed that the perpetuity of the flame of these wonderful lamps was owing to the consummate tenacity of the unctuous matter with which the light was maintained; and that the balance was so exquisitely perfect between the feeding material and the strength of the flame, and so proportioned -for everlasting provision and expenditure, that, like the radical moisture and natural heat in animals, neither of them could ever unduly prevail. Licetus, who has advanced this opinion, observes that in order to effectually prevent interference with this balance, the ancients hid these lamps in caverns or in enclosed monuments. Hence it happened that on opening these tombs and secret places, the admission of fresh air to the lamps destroyed the fine equilibrium and stopped the life (as it were) of the lamp, similarly as a blow or a shock stops a watch, in jarring the matchless mechanism.