Roman Oil Lamp with Cupid and Hercules Club

£ 400.00

A fine Ancient Roman light terracotta oil lamp, featuring a short canal nozzle, a concave discus with one filling hole, and a single applied, pierced handle. The discus appears decorated with a moulded depiction of the winged Roman god of love, Cupid, portrayed in profile, leaning on the club of the hero Hercules. The image is bordered with engraved concentric circles. The reverse features engraved letters forming the maker’s name, NOVIUS. This refers to the Justus family, a prominent family of lamp-makers in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. Large numbers of lamps bearing this signature have been found in North Africa, with the workshop believed to have been situated in El Djem, Tunisia. This lamp is classified as Loeschcke VIII; Bussière form D X 1.

Date: Circa 1st-2nd Century AD
Provenance: From the collection of Arno Jumpertz, Leverkusen, Germany, 1924-1984. Much of the collection was exhibited at the Neus Museum, 1985.
Condition: Extremely fine, with some erosions to the surface.


Product Code: RES-109
Category: Tag:

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. 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, popular myths, and domestic animals. The Roman god of love Cupid is here portrayed leaning on the club of the famous hero Hercules. This symbolic representation was popular in the first centuries of the Roman Empire and shows that love can overcome and subdue even the greatest hero. Cupid, a personification of love, has rendered Hercules useless, his club a metaphor for the hero’s strength and force.

To discover more about Eros’ iconography in Antiquity, please visit our relevant blog post: Eros’ Iconography in Classical Times.

Dimensions L 10.4 x W 7.2 cm



Southern Europe

Roman Mythology


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