Roman Terracotta Oil Lamp with a Hoplomachus

£ 1,850.00

A Roman terracotta oil lamp with a decorated concave discus. Within its centre is a depiction of a gladiator. He stands face-on, with his head turned to the left. He wears a crested helmet, whilst holding a small, concave shield in his right hand and a long spear in his left. Protecting this arm is an arm guard, portrayed through the use of deep ridges. The gladiator’s muscular chest is bare, but he does wear a fabric loincloth. His legs are covered to the knee by greaves, whilst his feet remain bare. The discus is surrounded by three concentric circles, decorating the flat shoulders, leading to an angular, voluted nozzle. The filling hole can be found towards the bottom of the discus. The reverse features a simple ring base. This lamp belongs to the Loeschcke type I B/C group, which is characterised by its lack of a handle, circular body, and wide angular nozzle flanked by two volutes.

Date: Circa 1st Century AD
Provenance: Ex private Swiss collection.
Condition: Excellent. Very clear detailing to the gladiator, deep relief.
Product Code: RES-231
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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. 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, which led to the development of several provincial variations.

The gladiator depicted is clearly identifiable as a ‘hoplomachus’, from the clothing and weapons portrayed. He is seen holding a rounded, concave shield in one hand and a long spear in the other. Heavily armoured, he wears a crested helmet, greaves that reach to his knees and an arm protector known as a ‘manica’. A loincloth, or ‘subligaculum’ completes the ensemble, as his chest and feet remain bare. The ‘hoplomachus’ was styled on a Greek hoplite, who were known to carry circular shields and heavy armour. This gladiator was often pitted against the ‘murmillo’, who was styled on a Roman soldier.

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

Weight 37.82 g
Dimensions L 9 x W 6.3 cm



Southern Europe

Reference: For similar: The Metropolitan Museum, New York, item 74.51.2030

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