Late Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp


A late Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a plain discuss and rounded nozzle. The large, circular body leads to a short, rounded nozzle, with a concave discuss to the centre.  The flattened shoulders feature an ovolo pattern, but this is worn and relatively undistinguishable. There is a prominent lug handle to the rear and a simple base ring to the reverse.

Date: Circa 5th - 7th Century AD
Condition: Very fine. Some loss of slip expectant with age.


SKU: AH-1005 Category:

During 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. It is thought that the Romans took the idea for lamps from the Greek colonies of Southern Italy. During the Roman Empire, it became commonplace to use lamps in funeral ceremonies and for public purposes. Over time, the manufacture of lamps increased, and so did the variation in decoration, which depended mainly on the shape and size of the lamp. Common decorative themes depicted on the discus were entertainment scenes (such as gladiators in combat), common myths, and 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.

Most lamps can be dated stylistically, via their nozzle shape or other decorative elements. The nozzle seen here, a simple rounded nozzle with no defining volutes or markers, would indicate a later date for this lamp. Towards the end of the Roman Empire, lamp production had become less refined and decoration less precise.

Weight 159.8 g
Dimensions L 11.9 x W 8 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


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