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Ancient Roman Furniture

Ancient Rome

The Republic of Rome, later known as the Roman Empire, can truly be said to be the birthplace of our modern civilization. Most legal systems today are based on Roman law; Roman art, sculpture and literature are still enjoyed to this day, and most European languages are based on Latin. The Roman genius for building and holding together an empire brought an orderly system of government to lands far and wide, creating a world where artists, craftsmen, designers and scientists could exercise their talents in peace and prosperity.


The focal point of a vast empire, Rome quickly became a city of great wealth and prosperity. With trade routes opening up, and Roman legions on hand to protect them, anyone with a good head for business could become fabulously rich. An upper class of rich merchants and important legislators soon sprung up, so that elaborate tastes in architecture and decor could be indulged to the full. Roman empire houses and furniture designs have greatly influenced our own lifestyles.

Wealthy Romans were interested in politics and political intrigues; they were also great patrons of the arts. The Romans had a taste for drunken debauchery alongside which the modern permissive society pales into insignificance. This lifestyle eventually eroded the empire from within, so that when Rome was eventually attacked by hordes of barbarians, the invaders met with little resistance, and the great Imperial Empire effectively died.

Ancient Rome Furniture

Roman Furniture
Roman Furniture

Furniture in Roman houses tended to be sparse, since the occupants liked space and simplicity in their decor. Beauty was created by mosaics, frescos and water features and other features of Roman interiors rather than by use of elaborate furnishings. However, the few items of Roman Empire furniture were elegant and costly, using excellent materials and craftsmanship. Pictures of ancient Roman furniture painted on frescos and other artworks, together with the few pieces still in existence today, have made it possible to reconstruct with accuracy the furniture in Roman times.

Much furniture that we take for granted was entirely unknown to the Romans. No mirrors hung on their walls. They had no desks or writing tables, no dressers or chiffoniers, no glass door curio cabinets for the display of bric a brac, tableware, or books, no mantles, no hat racks. The main items of Roman furniture found in the best houses were couches or beds ( lectus ), chairs and stools, tables and lamps. Adding chests or wooden cabinets with doors, an occasional brazier, and still seldomer, a water clock, we have assembled everything that can be called furniture, except perhaps for tableware and kitchen utensils.

Roman State Chair
Roman State Chair.

However this does not mean that Roman furnshings were dull and dreary. If we take into account the decorations, the showy display of the atrium, and the singular beauty of the peristylium, it is clear that the Romans put importance on a very few exquisite and expensive pieces rather than attempting to fill up rooms with just this and that.

Roman Revival

Roman and Greek ancient furniture was the inspiration for the classical revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, giving rise to the attractive neoclassical designs of that time. Roman furniture history is the history of the empire itself - initially copying the ideas of the Greeks and from Egyptian furniture style, the Romans began to improve on and adapt what they had learnt, creating a style of architecture and furniture distinctive to this, the greatest of empires. Look here for some Roman decor & furniture ideas.

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