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I was curious as to what sort of bedding Romans used, and their beds actually, based on class? Was it rope beds? Wooden pallets? What about blankets and sheets? How did it differ by social class?

 

Thank you!

-E

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I was curious as to what sort of bedding Romans used, and their beds actually, based on class? Was it rope beds? Wooden pallets? What about blankets and sheets? How did it differ by social class?

 

Thank you!

-E

 

As you have guessed the type of beds and bedding used would depend upon the social class of the user. There si an Etruscan bed in the Vatican which is basically made of strips of metal in a latticework pattern on which a mattress would be placed - presumable stuffed with feathers or anything else that was suitably soft.

 

http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=h...m%3D1%26hl%3Den

 

There is evidence for other high class couches and beds in several Roman museums inlcuding the Bardo in Tunisia where the remains of a high class bed was recovered from a shipwreck.

 

There is evidence in both Pompeii and Herculaneum for a range of beds including wooden beds and a variety of matteresses and coverings. Possibly those in the worst position were the slaves especially those working in the brothels in Pompeii who only had stone benches with at best a thin mattress or blanket covering the stone.

 

C/f

 

http://images.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=h...l%3Den%26sa%3DN

Edited by Melvadius

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Hehe, thanks. I've actually been to both Pompeii and Herculaneum, but I didn't make the connection for some reason. I do remember the thigh-high stone pallets in the brothels.

 

My brain is fried.

 

Do you have any knowledge of bedding - eg, sheets and such? One of the books I have suggests that togas were sometimes used and it depended a bit on the season as well. I'm also wondering about things such as mosquito netting.

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Hehe, thanks. I've actually been to both Pompeii and Herculaneum, but I didn't make the connection for some reason. I do remember the thigh-high stone pallets in the brothels.

 

My brain is fried.

 

Do you have any knowledge of bedding - eg, sheets and such? One of the books I have suggests that togas were sometimes used and it depended a bit on the season as well. I'm also wondering about things such as mosquito netting.

 

As you have been to both Pompeii and Herculaneum it is probably superfluous for me to mention that several of the fresco's from both towns depict beds, and in some instances bedding, including what seems to be a decorated blanket. Obviously it is difficult to come to any real conclusion about the use or otherwise of toga's as bedding but I am sure that if on some cold night a senator was feeling the cold and he had run out of spare slaves he may well have grabbed his toga for that extra bit of warmth.

 

I am sure that most of us have, at some time or other, felt the need to throw any available spare clothing over ourselves on some extremely cold aboutnight when the heating and existing bedding seems inadequate. I won't go into detail but a few years back a certain traveller in ladies tights found himself cut off in his car by deep snow during a blizzard in the Highlands of Scotland a few years back and suffice to say that he made full use of his sample case and survived the experience relativel unscathed but probably deeply embarrassed;)

 

As far as mosquito netting is concerned I don't recall ever seeing anything depicted in frescoes that could have been such - I rather suspect that the Romans would have made use of smoking braziers or similar to try and disuade biting insects. Ultimately this probably wasn't too successful given the number of Roman towns such as Paestum and Ostia, that had to be abandoned due to malaria infestations by the ninth century AD as some of the previously navigable rivers silted up and malaria carrying, mosquito infested swamps developed.

Edited by Melvadius

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Actually, I'm not a scholar and the frescos and such that I saw really didn't stick with me, though I do recall them when I look at pictures online. Just a tourist only. Thank you so much for your help!

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Here's a picture I took last spring on opening day at NYC's Metropolitan Museum of Art's new Greek & Roman Wing.

 

100_0823.jpg

 

This circa 1st-2nd century CE Roman bed used to be on display in the museum's Roman bedroom exhibit for many years, but was moved to this glass case with the opening of the new wing. The change in the Roman bedroom exhibit was my only disappointment with the new wing, as the Roman bedroom always used to be my favorite exhibit at the Met. They still have the frescoed walls of the Roman bedroom on display -- it just seems so bare to me now, without the furniture in it.

 

I also always thought that bed was a bit too narrow for my idea of comfort.

 

-- Nephele

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I did see them mentioned here, but I'll just re-affirm the likelihood of the old reliable "feather-bed mattress". If they could find enough birds to actually treat bird

Edited by Faustus

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My oft quoted "The Ancient City" by Connolly and Dodge states "It is impossible to differentiate between Roman beds and couches. Virtually the same piece of furniture appears to have been used for both dining and sleeping."

 

I assume they do not mean triclinium couches considering that they were vastly different (being ramped upward toward the central table). Therefore my theory is that the romans utilized couches in the greek fashion day to day (the rich ones I mean) and their triclinia were reserved for dinner parties.

 

do we have any sources that dispute this?

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This should be of interest. The following (complete with ancient source references) is from the article titled LECTUS, by Dr. Leonhard Schmitz (19th century Rector of the High School of Edinburgh) for Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities:

 

I'm retyping this here, as this is in the public domain:

 

The beds of the Romans (lecti cubicidares) in the earlier periods of the republic were probably of the same description as those used in Greece; but towards the end of the republic and during the empire, when Asiatic luxuries were imported into Italy, the richness and magnificence of the beds of the wealthy Romans far surpassed everything we find described in Greece. The bedstead was generally rather high, so that persons entered the bed (scandere, ascenders) by means of steps placed beside it (scamnum, Varro, de Ling. Lat. v.168, M

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This is quite an informative extract taken from Johnston's Private Life of the Romans.

 

The Couches. The couch (lectus, lectulus) was found everywhere in the Roman house, as a sofa by day, a bed by night. In its simplest form it consisted of a frame of wood with straps across the top on which was laid a mattress. At one end there was an arm, as

in the case of our sofas; sometimes there was an arm at each end, and a back besides. The back seems to have been a Roman addition to the ordinary form of the ancient couch. The couch was always provided with pillows and rugs or coverlets. The mattress was originally stuffed with straw, but this gave place to wool and even feathers. In some of the bedrooms of Pompeii the frame seems to have been lacking; in such cases the mattress was laid on a support built up from the floor. The couches used for beds seem to have been larger than those used as sofas, and they were so high that stools or even steps were necessary accompaniments. As a sofa the lectus was used in the library for reading and writing; the student supported himself on his left arm and held the book or writing with the right hand. In the dining-room it had a permanent place, as will be described Later. Its honorary position in the great hall has already been mentioned . It will be seen that the lectus could be made highly ornamental. The legs and arms were carved or made of costly woods, or inlaid or plated with tortoise-shell, ivory, or the precious metals. We read even of frames of solid silver. The coverings were often made of the finest fabrics, dyed in the most brilliant colors, and worked with figures of gold.

 

 

<a name="img112">johnston112.jpg

 

Edited by Gaius Paulinus Maximus

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A business trip has allowed me a quick visit to Arbeia (South Shields) the western end of Hadrian's Wall. Great effort has been expended on re-creating the interior of the Commander's House and the Barrack area as well as the well known re-construction of a defensive gate structure.I have posted some gallery images relating to couces/beds/dining .

 

http://www.unrv.com/forum/index.php?automo...si&img=2149

 

The link leads to the first upload, I will add others here and offsite on MSN.

 

and the Triclinium of course...

 

http://www.unrv.com/forum/index.php?automo...si&img=2150

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I've not heard of a toga being used as bedding anywhere in the sources, and would love to know if there is such a reference. However, there is no reason why a toga should not make a very good - if slightly odd-shaped - blanket. It is large, made of soft wool, and has no buttons, buckles or joins that would prevent it being spread smoothly over a bed. In fact as a toga was once almost everyday wear - it might even have been the norm in some parts of early Etruria - there is no reason at all why a poor man might not have his toga double up as a bedspread.

 

It would be interesting to think that those modern students who drape themselves in bedsheets for 'toga parties' actually had the right idea all along!

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Its also formal wear, and then turning up to see a patron in a crumbled garment might not be too impressive :)

 

Mind you, on the other end of the scale, I'm reminded of a story about a young woman from a wealthy family who runs off with a gladiator. In the text it mentions that she has forsaken her soft bed of swan down. Nice if you can afford such things.

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Ive put a blog entry in regarding furniture at Arbeia (South Shields), the couches may be of interest.

http://www.unrv.com/forum/index.php?automo...;blogid=19&

I read in Croom:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Roman-Furniture-T-...6466&sr=8-4

that the use of wardrobe and storage space was minimal save for the wealthy (given the relative cost of garments) and that the poor "would adorn their meagre couches with any clothing possible as additional blankets".

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