Q:

What was ancient Roman furniture like?

A:

Ancient Roman furniture was sparse, easily moved and tailored to what particular room the furniture was in. Many articles of Roman furniture resemble the kind still used today, including chairs, benches, couches, tables and beds. Some furniture was decorative, such as fine silverware displayed in cabinets, displays of sculptures and frescoes and decorative chests that held family treasures and important documents.

The furniture in an ancient Roman home was largely dependent on the individual house, where status and wealth determined the quality of furniture. The actual objects were fairly universal, though. Romans had a variety of chairs: the sella, which was a small stool; the cathedra, a high-backed chair commonly used by women; and the solium, which is most similar to a modern chair with backs and armrests.

Other Roman seating objects include couches, on which more wealthy Romans reclined while servants served them, and benches. The bench, or subsellium, was simply an elongated stool. Subselliums were typically found in the houses of peasants and farmers.

Roman tables primarily came in two forms: the mensa and the abacus. The mensa is a low three-legged table, and the abacus is a larger, sturdier table used for specialized purposes, such as making shoes or food. High-status Roman tables were more similar to the abacus but were more decorative and made of higher-quality materials.


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