Roman North African Oil Lamp with Kantharos


A Roman redware mould-made lamp, from the North African region of the Roman Empire. The oil lamp has been finely decorated on the central discus with a kantharos, the leaves of a  vine spilling from the vessels centre. Two birds, depicted either side of the kantharos, peck at the vegetation. The shoulders, acting as a decorative border for the scene, feature an entwining geometric pattern. There is a lug handle to the rear of the lamp for holding.

Date: Circa 4th - 5th century AD
Provenance: From the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at Neus museum, 1985.
Condition: Fine condition. Crack to discus.


SKU: AH-838 Category: Tags: , ,

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.

‘Kantharoi’ were an ancient Greek drinking vessel, used to hold wine. They were an attribute of the god of wine, Dionysus in Greek or the Roman god Bacchus , who was also associated with vegetation and fertility.

Weight 133.8 g
Dimensions L 12.7 x H 5.2 cm

Pottery and Porcelain