Roman Chairs

Roman Colosseum

'The Roman Colosseum'

History, Facts and Information about Roman Chairs
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about Roman Chairs. What was the basic furniture of the Ancient Romans like? What sort of chair did the Roman Emperor sit upon?

Roman Chairs - the Lectus, the reclining couches used by Ancient Romans
Whilst eating their meals wealthy Romans reclined on sumptuous couches of a semicircular form, around a table which was of the same shape.

This type of chair, or couch was called a lectus. The lectus, or couch, or bed, was perhaps the most important item of Roman style furniture which was used for sleeping, sitting, relaxing or eating. The lectus had a wooden frame with leather straps that held a mattress stuffed with straw or wool or feathers. At one end of the lectus there was always an arm although many of theses couches also had backs and two arms. The lectus was made even more comfortable by the addition of pillows, cushions and a coverlet made using the finest fabrics. The legs of the lectus were often expensively decorated with  precious metals and made of ivory. Mention is made even of frames of solid silver. The meal time custom of reclining at meals was introduced from the nations of the east, and was at first adopted only by the men, but afterwards allowed also to the women. The women were expected to act with some decorum and therefore sat upright on the couches rather than adopting a reclining position. For the poor, or informal meals, food was eaten from normal tables and chairs. The lectus was  multi-functional item forming the basis of Roman style bedroom furniture.

Ancient Roman Meals

Roman Chairs - Sella , the ordinary chairs of Ancient Rome
Sella was the name given to the ordinary chairs used by the Ancient Romans. They were similar to our kitchen or din9ing chairs.

Roman Chairs -  - The Lectica, portable couches
The lectica was a kind of portable couch or litter, in which persons, in a lying position, were carried from one place to another. They were used for carrying the dead and also served as convenient and comfortable means of transport for the living. The lectica, or portable couches, were only used by the wealthy and made of expensive materials such as marble and ivory, often decorated with gold leaf and decorated with expensive hangings. They were quite common in Ancient Rome, though they were chiefly used in journeys, and in the city of Rome itself only by ladies and invalids. Romans were carried in a lectica by slaves (lecticarii) by means of poles (asseres) attached to it, but not fixed, so that they might easily be taken off the portable couch when necessary. The number of lecticarii employed in carrying one lectica varied according to its size, and the display of wealth which a prominent Roman might wish to make. The ordinary number was probably two but it varied from two to eight.

Roman Chairs at the Colosseum
There was no wood used in the seating area of the Colosseum - it was made of marble. The common people (the Plebs) sat on wooden planks placed on the marble seats, however the elite and the wealthy were far more comfortable. The senators first sat on cushions at first and then  chairs, which were actually folding stools, were used. These Roman chairs were called curules (sella curulis). These were the chairs of state and were displayed upon all great public occasions, especially in the circus and theatre

Roman Chairs - The Curule Chairs
The senators were allowed to bring their own chairs to the Roman Colosseum which they moved about at will. These chairs were a type of stool called curule chairs 'sella curulis'. A curule chair was a stool supported on a cross-frame and traditionally made of ivory. The curule chair had curved legs which formed a wide 'X'. This special type of chair had no back, it was a stool with low arms. The curule chair could be folded and therefore used as an easily transportable seat. 

Roman Chairs - The Imperial Box and the Emperor's chair (bisellium)
A total of 42 Roman Emperors witnessed the carnage at the Roman Colosseum and it was important that the emperors could see the action in the arena and could be in turn seen by the massive crowds. The Roman Emperors sat in an elevated imperial box which was erected on a platform called the pulvinar which had stairs on one side. The Imperial box used by the emperor and his family was raised above the podium on a dais. The emperors sat, or reclined, on a bisellium which was a richly ornamented chair or seat of honor at the games. The bisellium was so called because there was room for two people to sit on, although only one person ever sat there - the Emperor. 

Roman Colosseum
Roman Architecture

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