Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Fortuna


An Ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a solid vertical handle and a heart-shaped nozzle. The shoulder displays circular ridges marked off by two grooves which slope into a large sunken discus. Two small filling holes are set parallel in the decorated field. This depicts a human figure to the centre, possibly an advancing Fortuna with voluminous robes. Behind the deity, a complex architectural facade depicting the city of Carthage is rendered with fine detailing. The reverse remains undecorated and features a base ring.

Date: Late 2nd century to early 3rd century AD
Provenance: Ex major S.M., London, Collection 1970-2010.
Condition: Repaired.


SKU: MG-119 Category: Tags: ,

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.

Weight 144.5 g
Dimensions L 12.3 x W 9 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Roman Mythology

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