Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp

£ 200.00

An Ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a round body with a sunken discuss and a heart shaped nozzle. A single ring handle has been applied to the back with an incised dot at the base and the lamp sits upon a ring foot. The shoulder is decorated with angular lines forming stylised arrow motifs. The discuss is plain with a central filling hole, now blocked with encrustation, and an air hole at the bottom. Two concentric circles frame the discuss. Some earthly encrustations and signs of wear visible on the surface.

Date: 3rd century AD
Provenance: Ex J.M. collection, ex clergyman, acquired 1970s-90s. By descent to his children.
Condition: Good Condition. Signs of wear and earthly encrustations.


SKU: AG-44 Category: Tags: ,

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. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. Over time, the manufacture of lamps increased, and so did the variation in decoration, which depended mainly on the shape and size of the lamp. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus were entertainment scenes (such as gladiators in combat), common myths, and animals. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster) quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps.

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

Weight 98.7 g
Dimensions L 12 x W 9 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


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