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.
Roman Oil Lamp with Venator
A beautifully mould-crafted red terra sigillata 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 a male figure, a hunter, also known as venator in Latin, shown running right, while holding a long spear. The figure is shown wearing a detailed short vest, emphasising his anatomical features. The flat shoulders are decorated with a geometric design, comprising spirals and concentric triangles.