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Ancient Greece and Rome Furniture

The city-states of ancient Greece fostered a golden age of culture that was far more sophisticated than that of Egypt. A more personal spirit of inquiry and curiosity prospered, and humankind began to seek scientific and philosophical solutions to the fundamental conundrums of life. The Minoans of ancient Crete were great record-keepers, although more substantial evidence of their culture has proved elusive, limited to excavations of palaces. The Palace of Minos, when excavated, revealed a mighty stone throne, proving the Europeans have been using chairs for 4,000 years.

The Furniture and Furnishings of Ancient Greek Houses and Tombs

In this book, Dimitra Andrianou analyzes the furniture and furnishings found in late Classical and Hellenistic houses, tombs, and inscriptions of ancient Greece. Questioning the wealth of images of furniture as portrayed on vases, she focuses on the actual remains of furniture found in houses; analyzes the symbolic nature of elaborate furniture used in every day and in the afterlife; discusses their types and uses in houses, tombs, and sanctuaries; and assembles their ancient vocabulary.

The average Athenian male spent very little time at home, but devoted his attentions to civic activities at the Agora, religious commitments, and the Gymnasium. As a result, there was not a great need for furniture. A typical house consisted of two pillared courts – the andronitis, or men’s apartment, and the gynaeconitis, or women’s apartment, which was used as a general living room.

The most important furnishings were the hearth, at which offerings were made to the goddess Hestia, and an altar to Zeus. Seating furniture, tables, and beds were made predominantly from wood, and our knowledge of them is limited to depictions on vases, paintings, and carvings.

Roman Furniture

The basic Roman table was circular, and was usually set on tripod legs for extra stability. The feet were regularly carved to mimic animals’ feet, such as lions, just as they had been in Egypt and later Greece. The monopodium – a table supported by a single central pillar – was a later innovation, while a half-moon table known as the mensa lunata, was designed to be used alongside a crescent-shaped sofa.

Roman Furniture

Hospitality was a salient feature of Roman life and as a receptacle for food, the table was therefore an important possession. Maple and African citrus, and in particular the roots, were especially prized woods that were used for the best tables.

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