Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Gladiator Fight

£ 975.00

A mould-made, red/brown Roman terracotta oil lamp, featuring a volute nozzle and decorated concave discus. The large circular body is dominated by a prominent discus featuring a battle scene between two gladiators. The figure to the left is shown wearing a prominent helmet, with a large crest. He holds in his left hand a rectangular shield, raised high to protect his face. He carries a small dagger in his right hand, possibly a sica. His opponent appears to be raising his arms in protection, having dropped his shield, leaning back in defeat. Two large volutes sit beneath the discus and lead to a round-tipped nozzle, with a large burn hole. The base is flat and undecorated.

Date: Circa 1st - 2nd Century AD
Provenance: Ex S.M. London collection, 1970-2000s by descent.
Condition: Fine. Considerable repair to the base and sides. Some wear to the discuss.


SKU: AH-959 Category: Tags: ,

Gladiatorial entertainment was one of Rome’s most popular exports and this legacy is embodied in the archaeological remains of Amphitheatres found largely in the West of the Roman Empire. The gladiator depicted here, with his crested helmet, curved rectangular shield and protective arm grieves, is quite clearly a Murmillo. Murmillones became popular during the 1st century AD, replacing the Gallus gladiators. The Murmillo had various opponents, as much thought was given to which gladiator type should fight each other. They were often paired against the retiarius, gladiators depicted as fishermen who held a net and were lightly armoured. It is certainly fitting that a gladiator styled as a fisherman should do battle with one depicted as a fish. Murmillones had stylised fish fashioned on their helmets and their name derived from the mormylos, or sea fish.

The immense similarity to the referenced Getty Museum example leads us to assume that the lamps came from the same factory, made in North Africa, Tunisia. As this type of lamp was mould-made, multiples would have been produced with ease.

Weight 70.6 g
Dimensions L 11.4 x W 7.9 x H 3.1 cm

Pottery and Porcelain



Reference: For Similar: The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 81.AQ.38.1

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