The Roman oil lamp, originally called a ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, has been almost unparalleled in its distribution throughout the Empire. First developed towards the end of the Hellenistic period, oil lamps were to keep their general shape longer than any other item of pottery throughout the Mediterranean. 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. Lamps such as this fine example belong to the group of Bussière D X 10 lamps of Loeschcke type VIII, which are characterised by a circular body and short round nozzle. Early examples form this group date to the Claudian times and proliferated between the 1st and 3rd century AD.
Carthage, the capital of the Carthaginian civilisation, was situated in modern-day Tunisia. It developed into a vast Empire from a Phoenician colony. Due to its positioning, with access to North and South sea channels, it had a large maritime presence within the Mediterranean and most vessels would have had to cross it’s path. Such a strategic position made Carthage a powerful force to contend with. The Empire fought three wars against Rome, known as the Punic wars. The connection between Carthage in Rome was also famously located in literature via Virgil’s ‘Aenead’, which documents the infamous love story between the Roman hero and Carthage’s tragic founding Queen, Dido.