Byzantine Terracotta Oil Lamp with Greek Inscription


A Byzantine terracotta oil lamp featuring an oval body and rounded nozzle. A conical knob handle is placed at the top of the body and a pronounced ridge leads to the tapering nozzle, forming a channel. A Greek inscription covers the shoulders. A three pronged rosette decorates the channel. There is a small base ring to the reverse, decorated with a triquetra stamp to the centre.

Date: Circa 7th - 10th century AD
Provenance: Ex major S.M., London, Collection 1970-2010.
Condition: Very fine. Slight blackening to the nozzle from use and erosion of clay.

In stock

SKU: AH-894 Category: Tag:

Lamps of this type derived from the Palestinian region and were in use predominantly from 7th – 10th centuries. Decoration was an eclectic mix of geometric patterns, Greek and Arabic inscriptions and Christian iconography. This decorative mixture echoes the blend of both Christian and Islamic inhabitants living in the region at the time. Lamps with Greek inscriptions, such as this, are often difficult to decipher. This is largely due to the deterioration of Greek in Palestine during the Byzantine period and their continued copying by lines of successive potters.

The inscription to this lamp is no less hard to distinguish, although some letters are more distinct than others. The inscriptions begins to the right hand side of the lamp, continuing over the handle and down to the left side. It reads as: ΠΟΤΙCΟΜΕΚΑΙΦΟΤΙΖΟCE. Breaking this up to make more sense, it would read as: ΠΟΤΙCΟ ΜΕ ΚΑΙ ΦΟΤΙΖΟ CE (Potiso me ke photizo se). Translated, this loosely translates as ‘fill me and I will light for you’. The idea being that the lamp must be filled with oil for it to provide light.

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

Weight 83.5 g
Dimensions L 7.7 x W 6.5 cm


Pottery and Porcelain


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