Fr.: sphère ardente
A piece of glass of roundish shape, possibly made of rock crystals or a globular container filled with water, whose use is attested in ancient civilizations. In his comedy The Clouds, the Greek playwright Aristophanes (448-380 BC) mentions globules of glass that were known as burning spheres. Several Roman writers (Pliny, Seneca, Plutarch) speak of burning glasses. In particular, Seneca specifies that small and indistinct written characters appear larger and clearer when viewed through a globular glass filled with water. See also → magnifying glass.