History of Torches

Torch Light

The moment human race began to control fire, some 400.000 years ago, represents one of the turning points in the human history. Controlling fire meant we have means to cook food and eat healthier, to have heat in the winter and, of course, lightning at night. One of the most early and most primitive ways of illumination was a torch.

Torch is a rod-like piece of wood with the rag wrapped around one end, which is dipped in some flammable fluid and lit. If that fluid is mixture of sulfur and lime that torch will not extinguish if put into water. Ancient Romans invented and used that kind of torch. Torches were often put into sconces to serve as fixed lightning in crypts and castles. Except for lightning indoors, they were used in processions and parades. Torch was used as a symbol of hope, life (and, if turned upside down, of death and mourning) and enlightenment.

With time, torches were replaced with oil, gas, and electrical lamps. They still, though, last until today in various forms. There are “tiki torches”, bamboo sticks with container on one end that has flammable fluid in it and a wick sticking out of it. They are used in the summer for lightning, as decoration and to chase away insects, in the gardens and on camping trips. Jugglers also use juggling torches that are made of metal and wick on one end dipped in gasoline or naphtha, for juggling and fire breathing.

One of more notable uses of torch is as Olympic Torch that is used to light Olympic Flame. In 1936, Carl Diem, chairman of Summer Olympic Games that were held that year, introduced torch relay because there was a custom in the ancient Greece that flame burns in the temple of the Hera for all duration of the Ancient Olympic Games in Olympia and commemorated theft of fire from gods. Olympic Torch, that is used to light Olympic flame is generally lit at Olympia, Greece and carried through the country that is the host of the current Olympic Games as a connection between ancient games and mother ones. It lights Olympic Flame at the Opening ceremony of Olympic Games. Olympic Flame is extinguished at the Closing ceremony and marks end of that games. Olympic torch is made of modern materials with a container for gas fuel and is built to resist natural elements.

One more place where name of the torch resists history is “torch light”. It is a name for portable electrical light that is powered from electrical batteries and lights with electrical lamp, incandescent or LED. It has myriad of uses and is the proof that some ideas have very long histories (and that we still did not learn to see in the dark).