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Ancient Roman Chairs & Stools

Houses in Ancient Rome made use of various types of chairs. Stools, folding stools and benches were commonly used, but later these began to evolve into proper chairs.


The early form of chair among the Roman and other ancient civilisations, the sedile, was the backless stool or bench with four perpendicular legs. The stool, or sella, was the regular seat for a person, used by men and women resting or working, and by children and slaves at their meals as well.

Roman Stool Picture
Roman Stool Picture

The bench, or subsellium, differed from the stool only in that it could seat more than one person. It was used by senators in the curia, by jurors in the courts, and by boys in school, as well as in private houses. A special form of the sella was the famous curule chair (sella curulis), which had curved ivory legs. The curule chair folded up like a camp stool to make it portable and had straps across the top to support the cushion which formed the seat.

Roman Bench
Roman Bench.


The solium - an upright, high-backed chair with solid arms was used by the master of the house when receiving business visitors in the atrium, was the first improvement upon the primitive sella. The solium looked like it had been cut from a single block of wood and was so high that a footstool was needed to reach it as with the lectus.

Roman Solium
Roman Solium


Later, the cathedra became popular. This was a more comfortable chair, without arms, and with a curved back, and it was often used by lecturers in the Schools of Rhetoric. This gave rise to the term 'ex-cathedra' for an authoritative statement - in other words, 'from the lecturer's chair.' The cathedra supina was a similar chair with the back set at an angle more suitable for relaxing comfortably.

Neither the solium nor the cathedra was upholstered, but cushions and coverings were used with them both as with the lectus, and they allowed similar opportunities for skillful workmanship and lavish decoration.

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