Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with Locust

£ 775.00

An ancient Roman terracotta oil lamp featuring a round body with a concave discus leading to voluted nozzle with an angular tip. To the centre is a locust, facing left. The insect is rendered naturalistically with its long hind legs extending upwards. Its wings are slightly raised along with the antennas. A filling hole is visible below the locust. The imagery is framed with two incised bands. The reverse remains undecorated and features a slightly raised ring base.

This oil lamp is from the Loeschcke I B; Bailey A group iii

Date: Circa 1st-2nd century AD
Provenance: Ex J. L collection, Surrey, UK, 1990's.
Condition: Fine condition, encrustation visible to the surface along with roots which have attached to the lamp when in the ground.


SKU: LD-690 Category: Tag:

The locust belongs with in the grasshopper species. They travel in large swarms when migrating and there have been several documentations of the insect across different cultures. Locusts are mentioned in Egyptian culture in the Book of the Dead along with the Plagues of Egypt. Pliny the Elder dedicated a whole chapter to locusts, describing its appearance and the life cycle from birth to death. When they migrated over in large groups, it was interpreted as anger from the gods as they would destroy the land and harvest. The Romans would look to books on acquiring knowledge on remedies for the famine. In Cyrenaica, a region of Libya occupied by the Greeks, there was a law of three wars against the locust to maintain and eliminate the threat. However, the Parthians looked to locusts as a means of food. (Pliny the Elder. Natural History. 11.35)

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

Weight 57.3 g
Dimensions L 9.1 x W 6.4 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Reference: For a locust discus,The Metropolitan Museum, item 74.51.2256

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