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furniture


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Table, chair, and couch are the central items of ancient furnishing. Their principal characteristic is portability, essential in the circumstances of ancient domestic life, with use of space, and even choice of house, at least among the élite, varying with season and occasion. The prevailing theory of habitation revolved round the current location of the principal persons of the family; their environment had to be speedily arranged for them, if not around them, with screens, curtains, and equipment for the current activity, be it eating, drinking, sleeping, writing—and portable furniture to support small utensils, lamps, containers. Furniture was also a form of capital accumulation, deriving value from rare materials, ebony in Greek usage, citron (a North African tree) in Roman; or workmanship (fine figured representations, as on the chest of Cypselus, were common). The very rich needed large quantities to equip communal dining: Seneca the Younger had 500 citron‐wood tables with ivory legs. Oak and beech were used for cheaper furniture; cypress, cedar, and maple had a good reputation. Fine bronze, gold, silver, and enamel became widespread, as the finds of Pompeii and Herculaneum testify; luxury furniture of this kind was held to have reached Rome from Anatolia. Representations in Greek vase‐painting and Roman wall‐paintings attest a great variety of styles.

See houses, greek and italian.

Subjects: History.


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