As can be seen from the houses remaining
in Pompeii and Herculaneum, Roman
bedrooms or cubiculae were usually quite small.
Jérôme Carcopino says that
there was little within the bedroom to
tempt its occupants to lie abed: its
furnishings were kept to a minimum, and
if the shutters kept out light and the
weather, they could not protect its
occupant from the bustle of early risers
either in the streets or within, as
slaves, armed with cleaning supplies,
bustled around the house.
Larger villas might have more capacious and pleasant
cubiculae: Pliny the Younger, in his
Letters, describes his villa in Laurentium, just VII
miles from Rome:
"Connected to this area of the villa is a cubiculum
whose wall is curved like an apse; because of all its
windows, it is able to trace the daily movements of the sun.
Built into the wall of this room is a cupboard or
bookcase....A heating corridor... has a hollow floor
and...receives air warmed to a healthy temperature....On the
other side of the villa is a very elegant
cubiculum...brightened by a great deal of sunlight
and a very extensive sea view."
Each bedroom was equipped with a bed,
or cubile, by which the room took its name. Also within the
room was a chest, (arca), for money and possessions
and possibly a chair for visitors. Under the bed, most likely,
was a chamber pot or lasnum.
The bed itself was unlikely to provide
overmuch in the way of comfort. Webbing straps were woven on a
framework of wood or bronze on which a mattress, or
torus, and bolster, or culcita were placed.
This was stuffed with straw in most
poorer households; in wealthy bedrooms,
the stuffing might be of wool or even
The torus was spread with two
coverlets or tapetia
— the sleeper lay on the
first and pulled the second over, with a
counterpane, lodix or multicoloured
damask quilt (polymitum).
By the bedside was a mat, or
— an essential item for early
risers on cold mornings, as Roman floors
were usually stone, and warm stockings
Romans generally went to bed with most
of their clothing on, so rising early posed little problem: on
went the soleae or sandals, and the outer clothing
(amictus) and the sleeper was prepared to
greet the day.
in Ancient Rome, Jérôme Carcopino, Yale University Press,
As the Romans Did, JoAnn Shelton,
Oxford University Press, 1998