Early lamps were used by Greek and Roman civilizations, where light primarily served the purpose of security, both to protect the wanderer from tripping on the path over something or keeping the potential robbers at bay. At that time oil lamps were used predominantly as they provided a long-lasting and moderate flame. The Romans had a word ‘laternarius’, which was a term for a slave responsible for lighting the oil lamps in front of their villas. This task remained the responsibility of a designated person up to the Middle Ages where the so-called ‘link boys’ escorted people from one place to another places through the murky winding streets of medieval towns.
Before incandescent lamps, candle lighting was employed in cities. The earliest lamps required that a lamplighter tour the town at dusk, lighting each of the lamps, but later designs employed ignition devices that would automatically strike the flame when the gas supply was activated. The earliest of such street lamps were built in the Arab Empire,1 especially in Córdoba, Spain, Cairo, Egypt, and Baghdad, Iraq ( around 1000 AD ).2[unreliable source]
It is generally accepted that public illumination was ordered in London in 1417 by Sir Henry Barton, Mayor of London though there is no firm evidence of this.3 Paris was first lit by an order issued in 1524, and, in the beginning of the 16th century, the inhabitants were ordered to keep lights burning in the windows of all houses that faced the streets. By an Act of the Common Council in 1716, all housekeepers, whose houses faced any street, lane, or passage, were required to hang out, every dark night, one or more lights, to burn from six to eleven o’clock, under threat of a penalty of one shilling as a fine for failing to do so. Read more