Roman Oil Lamp With Octopus


Ca. 1st century AD. Roman. A beautiful oil lamp with a concave discus decorated with concentric circles enclosing a central raised octopus. The flat base is undecorated and the side walls are smooth. 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. Lamps with rounded nozzle, volutes, and circular handles like this one are dated to the 1st century AD — cf. Walters, H. B. (1914). Catalogue of the Greek and Roman Lamps in the British Museum. London, pp. 113–124.

Size: L:113mm / W:68mm ; 48.4g

Provenance: Ex. C.M collection, London; formerly in the collection of Arnos Jumpers, Leverkusen Germany, formed between 1980 – 1994.

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