The Romans

The Roman Republic (Figure 10.14) was marked by expansion based on military strength and economic trade. Greece came under centralized Roman rule in 146 BCE and began to influence Roman culture, includ­ing its architectural style and design vocabulary. Roman furniture was more elaborate than earlier Greek models. With the rise of the merchant class, the military class, and Roman citizenship, furniture began to func­tion as a status marker, as described in Petronius’s Satyricon, a Latin work of fiction, written in prose and poetry.

The Romans

Figure 10.15 Roman study with furniture. Image credit: Thomas Hope, Hope’s Greek and Roman Designs (Dover, 2005).

The furnishings of the Roman house were as elegant as the house itself. The Romans’ settled mode of habitation resulted in new furnishings for the home (Figure 10.15). These furnishings include:

■ The lectus (couch used for sleeping or dining)

■ The fulcrum (a headboard for the lectus)

■ The sella (a popular folding stool made of wood or metal)

■ The mensa (a low dining table)

■ The klinium (couch used solely for dining with surrounding klinia)

For some, couches were inlaid with ivory, bone, and silver. Tables were inlaid with metals and precious stones. Bronze tripods served as end tables. Cabinets were fabricated with pigeonholes for rolled manuscripts. Rome was the place where the cupboard first developed because dishes and domestic accessories created the need and desire for increased display and storage. Small tables were fabricated of bronze, wood, and marble.

Our knowledge of Roman furniture also derives from the fresco paintings at Pompeii and Herculaneum, sarcophagi, and surviving examples made from marble, bronze, exotic woods, ivory, gold, and silver. In addition to the expanded realm of interior furnishings, outdoor furniture began to flourish in conjunction with the use and popularity of courtyards.