Late Roman Oil Lamp with Chi-Rho Monogram


A fine Late Roman oil lamp enriched with exquisite 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. A solid spike like handle, which is flattened on each side, sits at the top of the lamp and the base is supported with a ring foot. The discus is decorated with a beaded Chi-Rho monogram, flanked on either side by small filling holes. The shoulder surrounding the discus is enriched with an intertwining curvilinear design in low-relief.

This lamp is classified as Atlante X; Hayes II A.

Date: Circa 5th-6th Century AD
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


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. 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 140.6 g
Dimensions L 13.0 x W 7.7 cm

Christian Ideology

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a similar item,The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.269

You may also like…