The earliest objects of bronze discovered in this country are comparatively few. As in other parts of Europe, they consist mostly of weapons, such as spear-heads and hatchets (which will be noticed under Arms), or bracelets, necklaces, and clasps or brooches. Earrings (inaures), brooches (fibuloe), and other objects of a similar purpose dating from the Roman period have been discovered in Galicia, while plates of the same alloy1 which imitate a shell were used as personal ornaments by the men and women of the ancient Spanish tribes.
The province of Palencia is a fertile field for archaeological discovery. Here have been found some curious clasps, intended, it would seem, to represent the old Iberian mounted warrior, sometimes brandishing the typical Iberian lance. The following- is a sketch in outline of an object of this kind, fashioned as clumsily and crudely as the cheapest wooden plaything of our time: -
1 Le Hon reminds us, in L'homme fossile, that before the Iron Age all bronzes of our western world contained one part of tin to nine of copper.
Two parts - the figure of the horseman, and a four-wheeled stand on which the warrior's steed is resolutely set - compose this comical antiquity. The rider's only article of clothing is a helmet; while the horse, without a saddle or a bridle, is completely nude. This toy, or table ornament, or whatever it may be, was found not far from Badajoz, where other prehistoric bronzes are preserved in the museum of the province;1 and Mr E. S. Dodgson says that in possession of an Englishman at Comillas he has seen another bronze rider of primitive workmanship, with the head of a wild boar under his left arm. Those who are interested in the meaning of these early bronzes should consult an article, El jinete iberico, by Senor Melida, published in Nos. 90-92 of the Boletin de la Sociedad Espanola de Excursiones.
1 See Romero de Castilla, Inventarios de los objetos recogidos en el Museo Arqueologico de la Comision de Monnmentos de Badajoz. Badajoz, 1896. Plate xxvii. represents another of these objects.
"Meleager's Hunt " (Prumitive Spanish Bronze)
We know that the use of Roman lamps grew to be general in this land - a fact which justifies my noticing the specimens preserved in the museum of Madrid; and more particularly so because their shape and general character have been perpetuated through the Spanish Moors and Christians of the Middle Ages till this very moment.
The Roman lamp, shaped somewhat like a boat by reason of the rostrum or beakish receptacle for the wick, consisted of an earthenware or metal vessel with a circular or oblong body and a handle, together with at least one hole for pouring in the oil. The commonest material was earthenware, and next to this, bronze. The lamp was either suspended by a chain or chains, or else was rested on a stand. Plato and Petronius tell us that the stand was borrowed from the rustic makeshift of a stick, or the stout stem of a plant, thrust into the ground. As time went on, the stem or stick in imitative metal-work was rendered more or less artistic and ornate. But there was more than a single kind of lampstand. The lychnuchus invented by the Greeks, held various lamps suspended from its branches, while, on the other hand, the Roman candelabrum supported but a solitary lamp upon the disc or platform at its top extremity.1 The island of Egina was famed for the production of these discs, and Pliny tells us that the decorated stem or scapus was chiefly manufactured at Tarentum.
The Roman lampstands also varied in their height. When the stem was long they stood upon the ground - a fashion we have seen revived in recent years, and even where electricity replaces oil. When, on the contrary, the stem was short, the stand was known as a candelabrum humile, and rested on a table or a stool.
The Madrid Museum contains a remarkable bronze lamp in the form of an ass's head adorned with flowers and with ivy. The ass is holding in its mouth the rostrum for the wick. The hole for the oil is shaped like a flower with eleven petals, under one of which is the monogram M†R. The back of this lamp consists of an uncouth human male figure, in a reclining posture, wearing a Phrygian cap and holding the ass's head between his legs.
1 Undoubtedly the use of the Roman candelabrum was continued by the Spanish Visigoths. "Candelabrum" says Saint Isidore, "a candelis dictum, quasi candela feram, quod candelam ferat" (Originum, book xx., chap. x.). The Spanish word candela is loosely used to-day for almost any kind of light or fire, or even for a match; but an ordinary candle is generally called a vela or bugia (bougie).
A Candil (Modern)
Other lamps of bronze, including several of an interesting character, are in the same collection. One of these represents a sea-deity; another has its handle shaped like a horse's head and neck; and in a third the orifice for the oil is heart-shaped, while the handle terminates in the head of a swan.
There is also a series of three pensile lamps - two in the likeness of the head and neck of a griffin, and the third in that of a theatrical mask; as well as a candelabrum fourteen inches high terminating beneath in three legs with lions' claws (foreshadowing or repeating oriental motives), and above in a two-handled vessel on which to place the lamp. This vessel supports at present a fine lucerna in the form of a peacock.
Probably no people in the world have kept extant, or rather, kept alive, their oldest forms of pottery or instruments for giving light more steadfastly or more solicitously than the Spaniards. Their iron candil1 and brass velon of nowadays (Pls. xxviii. and xxix.) - the one of these the primitive lamp that hangs; the other, the primitive lamp that rests upon a table or the ground - are borrowed with but a minimum of alteration from the lighting apparatus of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and possess, for all their coarse and cheap and unpretentious workmanship, a subtle interest and elegance attributable only to the inspiration of antiquity.
1 "A small open lamp with a beak, and a hook to hang it, within which is another of the same make that contains oil and a wick to give light, commonly used in kitchens, stables, and inns." - Fathers Connelly and Higgins, Spanish-English and English-Spanish Dictionary. Swinburne wrote of these candiles: - "The Spaniards delight in wine that tastes strong of the pitched skin, and of oil that has a rank smell and taste; indeed, the same oil feeds their lamp, swims in their pottage, and dresses their salad; in inns the lighted lamp is frequently handed down to the table, that each man may take the quantity he chooses."