Across the Roman Empire, 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, the variation in decoration increased. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus included entertainment scenes (such as gladiators in combat), common myths and deities, and even animals. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster) quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps. Bussière lamps are characterised by a plain shoulder and heart nozzle. Later variants of this type include more intricate designs across the shoulder and discuss.
For more information about the meanings of animals in Roman art, see our relevant blog post: Animal Symbolism in Roman Art.
To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.