Late Roman Greyware Oil Lamp with Chi-Rho Monogram


A fine Late Roman greyware oil lamp with striking relief decoration. The vessel consists of an elongated, oval body and a circular discus surrounded by a ridge, which continues around the large nozzle hole to form a broad canal. At the top, a solid blade-shaped handle flattened on both sides is attached. A circular ridge acts as a short foot on the base and extends into a straight line to the handle. To the top, the discus is decorated with a beaded Chi-Rho monogram, flanked on either side by small filling holes. The shoulder surrounding the discus, forming a decorative frame for the central iconography, bears a repeating pattern of stylised vegetal motifs. This delicately rendered design was produced using a mould. This lamp belongs stylistically to a group of North African lamps produced in Terra Sigillata Africana, classified as type Atlante X, Hayes II A.

Date: Circa mid 5th - mid 6th century AD
Condition: Fine condition; a minor chip to the front of the nozzle.


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. This style of oil lamp originated in North Africa, specifically Tunisia, but was broadly exported and then imitated all over the Roman Empire. This may explain the execution of this fine example of a Atlante X, Hayes II A lamp in greyware pottery, a material used most frequently in Roman Britain. The Chi-Rho motif here is one of the earliest forms of a Christogram, consisting of the first two capitalised letters in the Greek word for Christ (Christos or ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ). This monogram was used frequently throughout the Late Roman Empire, found on everything from mosaics to signet rings.

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

Weight 156 g
Dimensions L 14 x W 8.4 x H 5 cm


Pottery and Porcelain

Christian Ideology

Reference: For a similar Atlante X, Hayes IIA oil lamp type, please see The Metropolitan Museum, item 74.51.2039

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