Ancient Roman Redware Oil Lamp with Minerva

£ 350.00

A beautifully mould-crafted Ancient Roman oil lamp, featuring a long canal nozzle, a short handle and two filling holes to the discus. The discus is decorated with the depiction of Minerva, the Roman counterpart of the Olympian goddess of wisdom and war Athena. Shown in profile and wearing one of her iconological attributes, an elaborately crested Corinthian helmet, the figure is depicted wearing a detailed chiton, with beautiful drapes around her neck. The flat shoulders are decorated with a geometric design, comprising rectangular panels featuring parallel-engraved lines. The lamp is a fine example of the so-called lamps in Terra Sigillata Africana (TSA), and was moulded in the Roman provinces of North Africa, modern day central Tunisia. The lamp can be classified as type Atlante X, Hayes II A.

Date: Circa 3rd-5th 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: Extremely fine. Some earthly encrustations, black deposits around the nozzle.


Product Code: RES-157
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. Oil lamps moulded in North Africa and referred to the type Atlante XI B, Hayes II A, are characterized by a fine clay, glossy bright orange slip, a long canal nozzle with flukes on each side, perhaps a reminiscence of volutes, and a closed discus, surrounded by a continuous shoulder-frame.

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


Dimensions L 13.3 x W 8.5 cm

North Africa



Roman Mythology


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