Rare Ancient Roman North African Oil Lamp - Achilles & Hector For Sale

An extremely rare ancient Roman redware terracotta oil lamp, dating to approximately 350 A.D.

The scene on this ancient oil lamp is one of the rarest we have encountered. The discus of the lamp is impressed with the climactic scene of the Trojan War - Achilles raises his shield in victory as he drags the corpse of Hector behind his chariot, which is shown in full gallop. Achilles is depicted standing upright, dwarfing both the horses and the body of Hector. He holds his shield and his spear in the left hand, whilst the right, probably originally holding the helmet of the defeated Hector, is obscured by the pouring hole.

Interestingly, the ancient artist has expanded the traditional working area of the discus towards the nozzle of the oil lamp, so as to accommodate the trailing body of Hector.

Almost certainly from a North African workshop, based on the color of the clay and style of the decoration. The ancient artist undoubtedly had a good knowledge of the Iliad.

Lamps such as this were filled with olive oil in Ancient times and lit by means of a thick wick, which protruded from the nozzle end. The flickering light of the oil lamp was man's primary means of illuminating the darkness in ancient times, long before gas-lamps and modern electricity.

Length: 5 1/4 inches.

Condition: Handle restored, otherwise intact.


British private collection.

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Rare Ancient Roman North African Oil Lamp - Achilles & Hector

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