Across the Roman Empire, 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, the variation in decoration increased. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus included entertainment scenes, popular myths, deities, and even animals. Combat scenes between animals and humans, were a popular decorative motif, echoing real life combats, known as venationes, between bestiarii, Romans beast-fighters, and wild animals. Such combats took place in Roman amphitheatres and arenas and were watched by both Roman women and men. Suetonius reports in the chapter 39 of the Life of Julius Caesar that the dictator, in order to secure the support of the people, organized ‘Venationes [editae] per dies quinque ac novissime pugna divisa in duas acies, quingenis peditibus, elephantis vicenis, tricenis equitibus hinc et inde commissis’ which can be translated as ‘venationes for five consecutive days, the last one being a battle between two opposing armies, each consisting of five hundred foot-soldiers, twenty elephants and thirty horsemen’.
Ancient Roman Terracotta Lamp with Hunting Scene
An Ancient Roman oil lamp finely moulded from terracotta, featuring a short heart-shaped nozzle, a slightly concave discus with one filling hole, and a single, pierced handle. The lamp’s shoulders appear embellished by a stylised laurel wreath, a characteristic of lamps belonging to the Bussière form D X 4, variants A and B. The discus is decorated with the moulded depiction of a combat scene between a man, armed with a long spear, and four felines.
Condition: Fine, the lamp displays some cracks and has been repaired.