Roman Oil Lamp with Maker’s Mark

£ 470.00

A finely decorated Ancient Roman pottery oil lamp, featuring a pierced, raised and rounded handle, a short canal nozzle and one filling hole. The discus displays the depiction of a dancing figure, surrounded by two concentric circles. The figure is shown wearing a long draped vest and stepping right while holding a tambourine or a wreath. The movement and dynamism of the figure are emphasized by the folds of the dress, rendered through a series of engraved lines. The lamp is marked to the underside with the maker’s mark, ‘MNOVIVST’. This is a well-known oil lamp manufacturer, Marcus Novius Justus, who operated a workshop in what is now Tunisia in North Africa during the 2nd Century AD.

Date: Circa 2nd Century AD
Condition: Very fine condition. Signs of aging on the surface.


Product Code: RES-40
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 W 7 x H 10.2 cm

North Africa