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.
Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Gladiator
A mould-made red/brown terracotta rounded body oil lamp with volute nozzle, concave discus and one filling hole. The shoulder is flat in form, with three ridged concentric circles. There is an un-pierced air hole at the top of the nozzle. In the discus, a gladiator stands centre, with his back to the viewer, and his head facing the upper left. He is helmeted, holding a sword, wearing draped material around his lower body, and holding a shield in his left hand. The base of the lamp is unmarked. The shape of the lamp corresponds with Bailey Groups B.
Provenance: Ex S.M. London collection, 1970-2000s by descent.
Condition: Very fine, signs of aging to the surface but wonderful detailing to the discus..