Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with a Cockerel


A Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a decorated concave discus and a rounded-volute nozzle. The discuss depicts a naturalistically rendered cockerel, with incised markings made to depict the feathers and alert eyes. The scene is framed by three concentric circles and the lamp’s two volutes are placed between the discuss and nozzle. The small filling hole can be found by the feet of the cockerel and the reverse features one concentric circle, creating a simple base ring, with a slight indented centre. This lamp belongs to the Loeschcke type IV, which is characterised by a narrow, rounded nozzle flanked by volute-spines, round shoulders and the absence of a handle.

Date: Circa 1st Century AD
Provenance: Ex German collection, German Art Market.
Condition: Fine condition, signs of wear over the ages. The letters NTX have been added to the base.

In stock

SKU: AH-1003 Category: Tags: , ,

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 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.

Single cockerels and scenes with two birds were often depicted on oil lamps as cockfighting was a popular sport in the Roman Empire, introduced from the Near East. It was a sport popular amongst all social classes, from the poor to elite. Mosaics from Pompeii and Tunisia depict two fighting birds amongst the victor’s prizes, showing that the sport crossed territories and classes.

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

Weight 32.4 g
Dimensions L 9.5 x W 6.7 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


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