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 swans' down.

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 toral — an essential item for early risers on cold mornings, as Roman floors were usually stone, and warm stockings were unknown.

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.


Daily Life in Ancient Rome, Jérôme Carcopino, Yale University Press, 1940

As the Romans Did, JoAnn Shelton, Oxford University Press, 1998