Roman Ceramic Oil Lamp with Boxers


A ceramic Roman oil lamp featuring a voluted angular tipped nozzle and decorated discus.  The large discuss depicts two nude boxers fighting, known as ‘pugilists’, with the boxer on the left-hand side aiming a punch at the boxer on the right, who appears to block it with his right arm. The scene is framed by three concentric circles to the shoulders. The small filling hole can be found between the boxers in the centre of the discus. The reverse features a raised base formed from two concentric circles. This lamp can be classifies as Loeschcke type I B group, Bailey A group iii, which is characterised by a V-shaped channel between the discus and nozzle, closely set concentric circles around the rim, and a splayed nozzle. This lamp can be dated to the late 1st century BC, from the reign of Augustus to the early 1st century AD, and the reign of Tiberius.

Date: Circa late 1st Century BC – early 1st Century AD
Provenance: Ex German collection, German Art Market.
Condition: Fine condition, some earthly encrustation to the surface. Only some of the dark brown slip remains.


The Roman oil lamp, a product almost unparalleled in its distribution throughout the empire, developed towards the end of the Hellenistic period and was to keep its general shape longer than any other item of pottery throughout the Mediterranean. The vast trade networks set up with the expansion of the Roman empire allowed for this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa. Oil lamps were used by the Romans for mainly three reasons; to light private and public spaces, to give as offerings in temples and to the gods and to be placed within a grave or funerary context. As well as linear, geometric and circular designs, favourite subjects for decoration of oil lamps included gods and mythological scenes, scenes from everyday life, gladiatorial depictions, drawings relating to entertainment and theatre, and various animals, fish and birds.

The reference example given here shows an identical parallel in the Getty Museum, which has been dated similarly and was made in Anatolia. Boxers were mostly depicted in the nude, as opposed to gladiators, and are identifiable by the heavy gloves they wore.

Weight 50.3 g
Dimensions L 9.5 x W 6.5 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For Similar: The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.40

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