Roman Oil Lamp with Cupid and Hercules’ Club


A small Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a large, rounded body with a rounded nozzle. A lug handle is placed at the rear of the lamp. The discus is decorated with Cupid, in deep relief, carrying the club of Herakles in his left hand, and his arrow in his right; the symbolism between these two items implies that love can subdue even the strongest hero. Concentric circles frame the discus. A maker’s mark has been stamped on the reverse. This type of lamp is known as Loeschcke VIII (Bussiére form D II 1), of which had many variants.

Date: Circa 80-180 AD
Provenance: Private Israel collection, SM. Israeli export license for the collection.
Condition: Excellent. Details clear and defined.

In stock

SKU: AH-606 Category: Tags: ,

Upon the discus the maker has depicted Cupid carrying the club of Herakles, the legendary hero. This representation was popular in the 1st  to 3rd centuries and shows that love can overcome and subdue even the greatest hero. Cupid, a personification of love, has rendered Herakles useless, his club a metaphor for the hero’s strength and force.

Upon the reverse, the Maker’s mark, M NOV I V S T, can be seen. This refers to the tripartite name of the Justus family, M. Novius Justus, who were a prominent family of lamp-makers in the 1st and 2nd centuries. Large numbers of lamps bearing this signature have been found in North Africa, with the workshop believed to have been situated in El Djem, Tunisia. Maker’s marks and stamps decline in use from the third quarter of the 2nd century. Lamps themselves also tend to be inferior in quality compared to their 1st century counterparts, so a signature of pride seemed unnecessary.

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

Weight 49.7 g
Dimensions L 10 x W 7 cm

Pottery and Porcelain



Roman Mythology


Reference: The J. Paul Getty Museum, item 83.AQ.377.105

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