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Ancient Roman Lectus, Couch, Bed

The lectus, or couch, or bed, was perhaps the most important item of Roman style furniture. Used for sleeping, sitting, relaxing or eating, the lectus was a wooden frame supporting criss crossed leather straps that held a matress stuffed, originally with straw, and later with wool or feathers.

At one end there was an arm, as in modern sofas; sometimes there was an arm at each end, and a back as well. The back was likely a Roman addition to the ordinary form of the ancient couch.

It had a headboard, and was furnished with pillows, cushions and a coverlet. The legs were often highly decorated and inlaid or plated with tortoise-shell, ivory, or the precious metals. Mention is made 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. Primarily used for relaxing and socializing in the living areas, the lectus also formed the basis of Roman style bedroom furniture.

Roman Lectus
Roman Lectus

In some of the bedrooms of Pompeii the frame seems to be missing ; when like this the mattress was laid on a support built up from the floor. The couches used as sleeping beds seem to have been larger than those used as sofas, and they were so high that stools or even steps were necessary to reach them.

As a sofa the Roman lectus was used in Roman libraries for reading and writing; the student supported himself on his left arm and held the book or writing with the right hand. In Roman dining rooms the lectus had a permanent place.

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