Eternal Flame

An eternal flame is a flame, lamp or torch that burns continuously for an indefinite period. An iconic example is the flame that burned at the ancient temple of Delphi Nevertheless, there were many contemporary examples common to such surrounding peoples as the Persians and the Israelites.

The eternal fire is a long-held tradition in many cultures and religions. In ancient Iran the atar was tended by a dedicated priest and represented the concept of "divine sparks" or amesha spenta as understood in Zoroastrianism. Period sources indicate that three "great fires" existed in the Achaemenid era of Persian history, which are considered collectively to be the earliest reference to the practice of creating ever-burning community fires.

In China, it has at times been common to establish an eternally lit lamp as a visible aspect of ancestor veneration, in which case it is set in front of a spirit tablet on the family's ancestral altar.

The eternal flame was a component of the Jewish religious rituals performed in the Tabernacle and later in Jerusalem temple, where a commandment required a fire to burn continuously upon the Outer Altar. Modern Judaism continues a similar tradition by having a sanctuary lamp, the ner tamid, always lit above the ark in the synagogue. After World War II, such flames gained meaning as a reminder of the six million Jews killed by Adolf Hitler and his allies.

Most eternal flames are ignited and tended intentionally, but there are those created through such natural phenomena as natural gas leaks, peat fires and coal seam fires, all of which can be initially ignited by lightning, piezoelectricity or human activity, and all of which can burn for decades or centuries. In the central Javanese village of Manggarmas in Indonesia, the Mrapen is a famous natural gas based eternal flame originally ignited sometime before the 15th century; it has never died out despite intense tropical rain and winds.

In ancient times human-tended eternal flames were fueled by wood or olive oil; modern examples most often use a piped supply of propane or natural gas. Eternal flames are most often used as to commemorate a person or event of national significance, or to serve as a reminder of commitment to a common goal such as international peace.

The eternal flame commemorating American President John F. Kennedy following his assassination in 1963 is believed to be the first such memorial built in honor of a single, known individual (as opposed to flames commemorating one or more unknown soldiers). In the wake of the Kennedy memorial, eternal flames would be used more often throughout the world to honor persons of national or international significance.

Read more about Eternal FlameSpontaneous Natural Flames

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Famous quotes containing the words flame and/or eternal:

    A tree there is that from its topmost bough
    Is half all glittering flame and half all green
    Abounding foliage moistened with the dew;
    And half is half and yet is all the scene;
    And half and half consume what they renew....
    William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)

    I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war.
    Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)