Greek Oil Lamp

£ 150.00

An interesting and rare Attic Greek wheel-made pottery lamp in orange clay with a central, conical tube with a slightly everted rim – convenient to be used as a finger hole. The body of the lamp has a concave rim turned inwards and a rounded short nozzle with a large wick hole. The lamp is decorated with concentric circles in red slip. Olive oil in the hollow interior fuelled a wick set into the projecting nozzle.

Date: Circa 6th-5th Century BC
Provenance: German collection, early 19th century.
Condition: Very fine. Chipping to the inner rim and two hairline cracks to the bottom.


Product Code: GS-11
Category: Tags: ,

In Antiquity, 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. Pottery oil lamps could be made in three different ways: handmade, wheel made, or by mould. The use of the mould (which was made from clay or plaster) quickly became popular, because one mould could produce several lamps.

To discover more about the ancient origins of oil lamps, visit our relevant post: Oil Lamps in Antiquity.

Dimensions L 12.1 x W 9.6 cm

Southern Europe