Ancient Roman Oil Lamp with Cross Monogram


A late Roman moldmade terracotta oil lamp from North Africa embellished with a monogrammed beaded staurogram at its centre. The shoulders are elegantly decorated with alternating geometric motifs, triangular and square beaded stamps. The vessel features a long canal nozzle, a rounded body, and a lug handle extending outwards to the rear. The discus features the moulded depiction of the Christian symbol known as staurogram, which combines the two Greek letters Tau and Rho. The discus is pierced with two filling holes on either side of the cross. This type of oil lamp is known as the Alante Type.

Date: Circa 5th-6th century AD
Provenance: From a specialist collection of Roman oil lamps formed by Robertson Brockie (deceased), all acquired before 2008 from a central London ADA gallery; Southport Lancashire.
Condition: Fine condition, large chip on the nozzle, and some minor chips and scratches.


In Antiquity, a lamp was originally called a lychnus, from the Greek λυχνος, with the oldest Roman lamps dating back to the third century BC. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. The vast trade networks set with the expansion of the Roman Empire allowed this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa, which led to the development of several provincial variations. This style of oil lamp originated in North Africa, specifically Tunisia, but was broadly exported and then imitated all over the Roman Empire. Early Christian symbols, such as the staurogram, were also used as decorative motives, usually together with depictions of palmettes, palms’ or olives’ branches. The staurogram, combines the Greek letters Tau and Rho and was used originally as an abbreviation for ‘cross’, known in Greek as ‘stauros’(σταυρός)

To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.

Weight 99.3 g
Dimensions L 11.7 x W 6.7 cm
Christian Ideology



Pottery and Porcelain


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