Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp of Silenus


A fine Roman oil lamp moulded from terracotta featuring a circular, concave discuss of the bearded and half bald Silenus. He is facing forward with his head slightly tilted looking left and is wearing a laurel wreath. Three concentric bands frame the portrait and the filling hole is in the lower left field. The oil lamp displays a voluted angular-tipped nozzle and a flat unworked base with one incised band. A small chip can be seen on the base.

This oil lamp resembles Loeschcke type I C

Date: Circa 1st Century AD
Provenance: Ex J.L. collection, Surrey. Previously acquired from the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984.
Condition: Excellent condition, slight chip to base. Encrustation to the surface.

In stock

SKU: LD-421 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. 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.

Silenus was the rustic god of wine-making and drunkenness, and always depicted as an old man. He was the foster father, tutor, and companion of the god, Dionysus, who was entrusted to Silenus’ care by Hermes after his birth from the thigh of Zeus. Silenus rode in the train of Dionysus, seated on the back of a donkey, and it was believed that he could predict the future when intoxicated.

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

Weight 53.6 g
Dimensions L 9.4 x W 6.8 cm

Greek Mythology

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar iconography,The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.187

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