Ancient Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Two Cabiri

£ 650.00

A Roman, mould-made, terracotta oil lamp featuring a decorated discus. The lamp features a distinctive wide, angled nozzle and two decorative volutes to each side. The rounded body holds a large discus with flat, narrow shoulders. Three concentric circles surround the discus, which is decorated at the centre. It depicts two busts, both male and bearded. They wear pointed, phrygian caps, with a cross motif to the top. Between them is a filling hole, slightly off-centre. A larger burn hole sits in the nozzle. The lamp has a flat base, decorated with a single circular groove. At its centre is a maker’s mark; LMVNSVC, an Italic workshop with North African branches.

Date: Circa AD 70-120
Provenance: From a specialist collection of Roman oil lamps formed by Robertson Brockie (deceased), all acquired before 2008 from a central London ADA gallery; Southport Lancashire.
Condition: Very fine condition. Some loss of glaze and small chip to the reverse.

In stock

In Antiquity, 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, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. 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, which led to the development of several provincial variations.

The Cabiri, or Kabiri, were chthonic deities, associated with sailors and fertility. Their worship was centred on a mystery cult, associated with Hephaestus and focused around the Greek, north Aegean islands. Their origin was unknown but a possible Phrygian or Semitic inception has been suggested. They were represented usually in pairs; a male group, a father and son known as Axiocersus and Cadmilus. A less-important female pair, Axierus and Axiocersa, were also associated with the cult. Axiocersus and Cadmilus were depicted as they are here, as bearded men, wearing phrygian caps with stars or crosses. They are often confused with depictions of the Dioscuri, who are similarly portrayed and associated with stars.

The maker’s mark LMVNSVC refers to a prolific workshop with Italic origin and North African branches. Their prolific period of manufacture was from the Flavian period, beginning with the Emperor Vespasian, to the Trajan period.

To discover more about oil lamps in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Lighting The Way.

Weight 60.9 g
Dimensions L 9.8 x W 7 cm

Pottery and Porcelain



Reference: For similar discus iconography: The British Museum, London, item 1756,0101.1094

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