Roman Grayware Lamp with Mercury

£ 325.00

A very fine Ancient Roman grayware terracotta oil lamp. This mold-made lamp features a voluted angular-tipped nozzle and, on the shoulder, it displays circular ridges marked off by three grooves which slope into a large sunken discus. One filling hole to the bottom left in the decorated field. Centring the discus is Mercury, the Roman counterpart of the Greek god Hermes, depicted standing, nude except for a himation folded around his left arm, he is wearing a round-brimmed petasus, the hat which represents one of the iconological attributes of the god, and holds a caduceus in his left hand. Ring groove on the base, enclosing an inscribed I symbol, possibly a maker’s mark. Similar lamps have been recovered in North Africa. This lamp belongs to the type: Loeschcke I B; Bailey A group iii.

Date: 1st-4th Century AD
Provenance: From a specialist collection of Roman oil lamps formed by Roberton Brockie (deceased), all acquired before 2008 from a central London ADA gallery.
Condition: Very fine, a stable crack on the noozle, by the wick hole.


Product Code: RES-160
Category: Tag:

The Messenger God Mercury (Hermes in Greek mythology) played a variety of roles within Roman society. In the Roman world, his ability of safe transport, as a messenger god, connected him to merchants and trading, as well as acting as a guide for the souls of the dead to the underworld. According to the Homeric hymns, the caduceus, a staff intertwined with snakes was believed to have been a gift to Hermes from the God Apollo, in return for the gift of a lyre which Hermes had fashioned for Apollo. Of the Roman gods, Mercury seems to have been one of the most popular, with Mercurian iconography representing a significant proportion of the figurative decoration found in material and visual culture in Pompeii.

The Roman oil lamp, originally called a ‘lychnus’, from the Greek ‘λυχνος’, has been almost unparalleled in its distribution throughout the Empire. First developed towards the end of the Hellenistic period, oil lamps were to keep their general shape longer than any other item of pottery throughout the Mediterranean. The vast trade networks set with the expansion of the Roman Empire allowed this item to be spread across Europe, Eastern Asia and Northern Africa.

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

Dimensions L 9.7 x W 6.6 cm

North Africa



Roman Mythology


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