Romano-Egyptian Terracotta Oil Lamp in the form of Mars


A large terracotta oil lamp in the form of Mars, dressed as a late Ptolemaic or Roman officer in muscled armour over a padded garment with pendant protective stripes at the shoulders and waist. The figure also wears a pointed Phrygian helmet, military boots, and cloak – a symbol of military rank. He holds a sword (xiphos) aloft in his left hand and a shield (thureos) in the other, and has a dagger (xiphidion) strung at his waist. The facial features and details of the clothing are picked out in great detail. The figure is supported by a wide column at the base, which features two holes for the lamp wicks. The reverse is undecorated.

Date: Circa 1st Century BC - 1st Century AD
Provenance: From a major German collection; The collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at the Neus Museum, 1985. Previously bought from Zuhlsdorf, Koln, in 1984; Ex JL Collection, Surrey.
Condition: Good condition. Some damage to surface and repair along waist. Rare.


SKU: BL-33 Category: Tag:

These Egyptian terracotta warriors usually wore tunics, boots, and cloaks, and were armed with a cuirass and thureos shield. They represent Mars, the Roman god of war, as a late Graeco-Egyptian warrior.

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. 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. ‘Plastic’ oil lamps were figurine types which first appeared in the Hellenistic period. They grew in popularity in the 1st – 2nd century AD. They grew out of fashion in the 4th century with the emergence and rise of Christianity. These moldmade figures, were considered the luxury items for the poorer classes, used as votive offerings, as statues in the home and even as toys for children.

Weight 1178.8 g
Dimensions L 35.0 x W 12.1 cm

Pottery and Porcelain


Roman Mythology

Reference: For similar: The British Museum, London, item 2001-0328-1

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