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LECTUS (κλίνη, λέχος, εὐνή), a bed. In the Homeric poems we find three kinds of beds distinguished: (1) λέχος, a heavy compact bedstead,--even a fixture, as the famous bedstead in the palace of Ulysses; (2) δέμνια, easily transportable, like a camp-bed; (3) a “shake down” upon the floor, with no framework at all, expressed by the words χάμαδις στορέσαι. As the most noticeable instance of the λέχος, we have the description (Od. 23.190) of the bed made for himself by Ulysses. The actual trunk of an olive-tree, round which he has built and roofed his chamber, forms one solid and immovable post, lopped and smoothed with the axe; upon this is constructed the rest of the wooden framework, with the other three feet; the whole inlaid with gold and silver and ivory, and having a red leather strap across to support the bedding. (Buchholz somewhat strangely interprets the ἱμὰς to be a strap hung above the bed, by which the occupant might raise himself up. The only argument for such a view appears to be the use of the singular; but there is no reason why one girth should not be used--τόνος would be the word in later Greek--even if we do not take it as a poetical usage of singular for plural.)

For the δέμνια as a quickly improvised bed, see Od. 4.296, 7.335; Il. 24.643. From these passages it appears that δέμνια means a light framework, such as slaves could bring out into the portico, and over it was spread the bedding (see below). The passage in the Iliad, it is true, seems to use λέχος contrary to custom in the same sense. For the third kind, see Od. 20.1, where Ulysses, as a poor wanderer, has no bedstead but merely an ox-hide and the bedding placed upon it. The λέχος was, as has been said, a fixed or at least a solid framework, and therefore called πυκινόν (Od. 7.340, &c.): when στορέσαι is joined to it, the arrangement of the bedding is referred to. It is made with rounded posts (δινωτόν) and carved. (The word τρητός, however, to which Buchholz gives this meaning, may only imply that the framework was pierced for the cords or girths.) The plural τὰ λέχεα includes bedstead and bedding, which was arranged as follows. On the λέχος or δέμνια were placed (1) ῥήγεα = mattress and pillows. (Göll argues from their being washed that they were merely woollen rugs; but they are always distinct from τάπητες.) (2) Over these were spread τάνητες, woollen blankets, not for a covering, but to make the bed softer; both ῥήγεα and τάπητες were under the sleeper, and over him were (3) χλαῖναι as a coverlet (Od. 4.296, 7.338; Il. 24.647). The word εὐνὴ in Homer is merely a sleeping-place with or without a bed (comp. Od. 7.347, 11.188). The poorer classes, as in the passage cited from Od. xx., had a hide in place of the λέχος, and κώεα in place of the ῥήγεα and τάπητες (cf. Od. 14.518. For fuller discussion, see Buchholz, Homerische Realien, § 60). The complete bed consisted in later times of the following parts: κλίνη, ἐπίτονοι, τυλεῖον or κνέφαλλον, προσκεφάλαιον, and στρώματα.

The κλίνη, though used generally for the whole (εὐνὴ being rare in prose), is, properly speaking, only the bedstead, and seems to have consisted only of posts fitted into one another and resting upon four feet. At the head part alone there was a board (ἀνάκλιντρον or ἐπίκλιντρον) to support the pillow and prevent its falling out. Sometimes this was wanting, as we see in drawings on ancient vases (see also Poll. 10.34; 6.9). Sometimes, however, the bottom part of a bedstead was likewise protected by a board, so that in this case a Greek bedstead resembled a modern so-called French bedstead. The κλίνη was generally made of wood, which in quality varied according to the means of the persons for whose use it was destined; for in some cases we find that it was made of solid maple or boxwood, or veneered with a coating of these more expensive woods. At a later period bedsteads were not only veneered with ivory or tortoiseshell, but sometimes had silver feet (Pollux, l.c.; Aelian, V.H. 12.29; Athen. 6.255). This method of veneering is like that described by Pliny, Plin. Nat. 9.33: “testudinum putamina secare in lamnas, lectosque et repositoria his vestire Carvilius Pollio instituit.”

The bedstead was provided with girths (τόνοι, from which possibly the metaphor about Cratinus is drawn in Aristoph. Kn. 532), ἐπίτονοι, κείρια on which rested the bed or mattress (κνέφαλον, τυλεῖον or τύλη: the last word, however, is an old Ionic domestic term in this sense, in Attic a knot or hump: Rutherford's New Phrynichus, p. 256). The cover or ticking of a mattress was made of linen or woollen cloth or leather, and the usual stuffing (πλήρωμα) was dried reeds or wool. At the head part of the bed and supported by the ἐπίκλιντρον lay a round pillow (προσκεφάλαιον) to support the head; and in some ancient pictures two other square pillows are seen, which were intended to support the back. The covers of such pillows are striped in several pictures on ancient vases (see the woodcut under SYMPOSIUM), and [p. 2.18]were therefore probably of various colours. They were undoubtedly filled with the same materials as the beds and mattresses.

The bed-covers, which may be termed blankets or counterpanes, were called by a variety of names, such as περιστρώματα, ὑποστρώματα, ἐπιβλήματα, ἐφεστρίδες, χλαῖναι, ἀμφιεστρίδες, ἐπιβόλαια, δάπιδες, ψιλοδάπιδες, ξυστίδες, χρυσόπαστοι, τάπητες or ἀμφιτάπητες. The common name, however, was στρώματα. They were generally made of cloth, which was very thick and woolly either on one or on both sides (Pollux, 6.9). It is not always easy to distinguish whether the ancients, when speaking of κλῖναι, mean beds in our sense of the word, or the couches on which they lay at meal-times. We consequently do not know whether the descriptive epithets of κλῖναι, enumerated by Pollux, belong to beds or to couches. But this matters little, as there was scarcely any difference between the beds of the ancients and their couches, with this exception, that the latter being made for appearance as well as for comfort, were, on the whole, undoubtedly more splendid and costly than the former. Considering, however, that bedsteads were often made of the most costly materials, we may reasonably infer that the coverings and other ornaments of beds were little inferior to those of couches. Notwithstanding the splendour and comfort of many Greek beds, the Asiatics, who have at all times excelled the Europeans in these kinds of luxuries, said that the Greeks did not understand how to make a comfortable bed (Athen. 2.48; Plut. Pel. 30). The places most celebrated for the manufacture of splendid bed-covers were Miletus, Corinth, and Carthage (Aristoph. Frogs 410, 542, with the Schol.; Lysistr. 732; Cic. c. Verr. 1.34; Athen. i. pp. 27, 28). It appears that the Greeks, though they wore nightgowns (χιτὼν εὐνητήρ,, Pollux, 10.123), did not simply cover themselves with the στρώματα, but wrapped themselves up in them. Less wealthy persons continued, according to the ancient custom, to use skins of sheep and other animals, especially in winter, as blankets (Pollux, 10.123; Aristoph. Cl. 10).

The bedsteads of the poorer classes are designated by the names σκίμπους, ἀσκάντης: a description of such a bed is given by Aristophanes (Aristoph. Pl. 540, &c.; compare Lysistr. 916). Socrates sleeps on a σκίμπους (Plat. Protag. 310 C). For this κράββατος is used by New Testament writers and in Scholiasts; it is said by Salmasius to be a Macedonian word, whence its use in Hellenistic Greek (see Rutherford, New Phrynichus, p. 138). The words χαμεύνη and χαμεύνιον, which originally signified a bed of straw or dry herbs made on the ground (Theocrit. 13.33; Plut. Lyc. 16), were afterwards applied to a bed which was only near the ground, to distinguish it from the κλίνη, which was generally a high bedstead. Χαμεύνια were the usual beds for slaves, soldiers in the field, and poor citizens, and the mattresses used in them were mere mats made of rushes or bast. (Pollux, l.c., 6.11, 10.7; Becker-Göll, Charikles, 3.74-81; Guhl and Koner, 143.)

The beds of the Romans (lecti cubiculares) in the earlier periods of the Republic were probably of the same description as those used in Greece; <*>wards the end of the Republic and during <*>npire, when Asiatic luxuries were im<*> into Italy, the richness and magnificence <*>beds of the wealthy Romans surpassed <*>Thing we find described in Greece. The bedstead was generally rather high, so that persons reached the bed by means of a footstool (scamnum, Varro, L. L. 5.35, 46): it was veneered with costly woods, tortoiseshell and ivory (cf. supra on κλίνη), or overlaid with plates (lamnae) of gold or silver (Mart. 9.22), or gold leaf (bracteae) which the dishonest slave scrapes off with his nail (Mart. 8.33, 5). The aurei lecti (Cic. Tusc. 5.21, 61; Suet. Jul. 49) and eburni (Hor. Sat. 2.6, 103) were no doubt, as Göll says, not solid gold or ivory, but overlaid with gold and ivory = inaurati, eburati: so also lecti aerati (Liv. 39.6) were overlaid with bronze. We hear, however, of massive silver bedsteads (Petron. 73; Lamprid. Heliog. 29). Often the feet, too (fulcra), were of gold or silver (Verg. A. 6.603; Suet. Cl. 32; Prop. 3.5, 5, 4.7, 3; Juv. 11.95). Becker less satisfactorily takes these fulcra as equivalent to scamnum (supports for the foot in mounting the bed). In Propertius, “Cynthia namque meo visa est incumbere fulcro,” the foot of the bed stands for the bed itself. The lectus pavoninus of which Martial speaks (14.85) was inlaid with variegated woods, citrus, &c., of many colours. The bed or mattress (torus) with the pillow (culcita, cervical) rested upon girths (fasciae, institae, restes or funes: Cic. de Div. 2.6. 5, 134; Mart. 5.62; Hor. Epod. 12.12). The two sides of the bed are distinguished by different names: the side at which it was entered was open and called sponda; the other side was protected by a board and called pluteus (Isid. 20.11). There was always a raised head-board at one end; sometimes (as also occasionally in Greek beds) a raised foot-board too. The two sides are also distinguished as torus exterior and torus interior or sponda exterior and sponda interior (Ov. Amor. 3.14, 32; Hor. Epod. 3.22; Suet. Jul. 49). The ordinary stuffing (tomentum) of the mattresses and pillows was wool (Plin. Nat. 8.192), for cheaper bedding straw or dried reeds (Hor. Sat. 2.3, 117; Mart. 14.160), which had been the old-fashioned material (Plin. Nat. 8.193) in less luxurious times. Later feathers were commonly used, especially for pillows; so that pluma is used for the pillow itself (e. g. Juv. 6.88; Propert. iv. or 3.7, 50; Mart. 14.149). Becker wrongly used this passage to show that feather tapestry, like the

Lectus, in which the usual pluteus is wanting. (From a Pompeian painting.)

old Mexican work, was used for casings by the Romans: pluma versicolor is merely a pillow [p. 2.19]with a striped covering, and the art of the plumarius is not what Becker imagined (see Göll's note on Gallus, 3.339; Blümner, Techn. 1.210; and the article PLUMARIUS). As a special luxury, Heliogabalus had pillows made of the soft plumage under the partridge's wing. The blankets or counterpanes (vestes stragulae) were in rich houses of costly make, dyed purple, and embroidered in gold. These gold-embroidered coverlets were called Attalicae vestes, Attalica peripetasmata, being, as Pliny (Plin. Nat. 8.196) says, first used by Attalus. Hence in Propert. 3.5, 5, Attalicus torus is used for a bed so covered. The name stragula belongs both to the blanket on which the occupant lay as well as that which covered him, but the latter was strictly called opertorium (Sen. Ep. 87, 2).

2. The lectus tricliniaris (for the use and arrangement of which, see CENA and TRICLINIUM) was in most points like the lectus cubicularis. It was, however, lower, as may be gathered from the use of scandere, &c. applied to the latter (see also Serv. ad Aen. 4.685). It had also, at least in most cases, a pluteus, as may be seen from Suet. Cal. 26; Propert. iv. (or v.) 8, 68: and this appears also in drawings. At one end only there was a raised ledge on which a cushion was placed, and on this the left arm rested. Among the Romans it held three persons; among the Greeks, two. Like the bed, it had a mattress (torus), over which coverlets of fine stuffs, “Tyriae” vestes, &c., were thrown. The toral was a sort of valance from the torus to the ground (Becker-Göll, 2.343). Some have thought that the aulaea (Hor. Sat. 2.8, 54; Od. 3.29, 14; Verg. A. 1.697) were a canopy over the lectus, and so Göll maintains; but it is better with Marquardt to take them as wall-hangings, in no way part of the lectus (see AULAEA). For pictures of the lectus tricliniaris, see CENA

3. The lectus genialis was the marriage couch to which the newly-married were led by the pronuba. It was placed in the atrium opposite the door, and hence was called lectus adversus (Prop. 5.11, 85; Laberius, ap. Gel. 16.9). When a new marriage took place, it was again prepared (stratus, Cic. Clu. 5, 14: cf. Hor. Ep. 1.1, 87; Arnob. 2.67; Juv. 10.333). Till that time it remained unoccupied in the atrium: by it in old and simple times sat the mistress of the house, spinning and superintending household work. “Lucretia nebat: ante torum calathi lanaque mollis erat” (Ov. Fast. 2.739; cf. Ascon. ad Cic. Mil. 5, 13). The lectus genialis was higher than the ordinary bed, and ascended by steps, “gradibus acclivis eburnis,Lucan 2.356 . (“Qua simplici scansione scandebant in lectum non altum scabellum, in altiorem scamnum: duplicata scansio gradus dicitur,” Varro, L. L. 5.168.)

4. The lectus lucubratorius, often simply lectus or lectulus, and in Suet. Aug. 78 lectica lucubratoria, a reading couch smaller and no doubt usually simpler than the bed, but otherwise of much the same construction.

Here the Roman of literary habits spent much of his day, especially in the morning, reading and writing: to this, not to sleep, Horace's “ad quartam jaceo” refers, and the lectulus is his place of meditation (Sat. 1.4, 133). Suetonius (l.c.) tells us that Augustus was in the habit of going to his reading couch after dinner: see also Pliny the younger's account of Spurinna (Ep. 3.1), and of his uncle's habits (Ep. 3.5) and the description in Ep. 5.5, “jacere in lectulo suo compositus in habitum studentis, habere ante se scrinium.” The “habitus studentis” was the reclining posture on the left arm, using the right for writing or holding the book: cf. Ov. Tr. 1.11, 37; Sen. Ep. 72; Pers. 1.52.

5. Lectus funebris, also but less frequently lectica, and in Corn. Nep. Att. 22lecticula” (cf. Tac. Hist. 3.67), sometimes in poets feretrum, the couch or bier on which the dead were borne. They were sometimes elaborately ornamented. Dio Cassius (56.34) thus describes the bier of Augustus: κλίνη ἦν ἔκ τε ἐλέφαντος καὶ χρυσοῦ πεποιημένη καὶ στρώμασιν ἁλουργοῖς διαχρύσοις (i. e. Attalicis vestibus) κεκοσμημένη. For other particulars, see article FUNUS and Becker-Göll, Gallus, 3.508. Representations of lecti funebres have been found on several sepulchral monuments. The following woodcut represents

Lectus funebris. (From an ancient tombstone.)

one taken from a tombstone.

[L.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (51 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (51):
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 542
    • Aristophanes, Frogs, 410
    • Aristophanes, Knights, 532
    • Aristophanes, Plutus, 540
    • Homer, Odyssey, 3.29
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.188
    • Homer, Odyssey, 14.518
    • Homer, Odyssey, 20.1
    • Homer, Odyssey, 23.190
    • Homer, Odyssey, 4.296
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.335
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.340
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.347
    • Homer, Iliad, 24.643
    • Homer, Iliad, 24.647
    • Homer, Odyssey, 3.14
    • Homer, Odyssey, 7.338
    • Aristophanes, Clouds, 10
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 14
    • Cicero, For Aulus Cluentius, 5
    • Cicero, For Milo, 13
    • Cicero, For Milo, 5
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 6.603
    • Vergil, Aeneid, 1.697
    • Suetonius, Caligula, 26
    • Suetonius, Divus Claudius, 32
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 3.67
    • Suetonius, Divus Augustus, 78
    • Suetonius, Divus Julius, 49
    • Lucan, Civil War, 2.356
    • Cornelius Nepos, Atticus, 22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 9.33
    • Livy, The History of Rome, Book 39, 6
    • Cicero, De Divinatione, 2.6
    • Cicero, Tusculanae Disputationes, 5.21
    • Gellius, Noctes Atticae, 16.9
    • Plutarch, Lycurgus, 16
    • Plutarch, Pelopidas, 30
    • Athenaeus, of Naucratis, Deipnosophistae, 2.48
    • Ovid, Tristia, 1.11
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegies, 3.5
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegies, 4.3
    • Sextus Propertius, Elegies, 4.7
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.149
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.160
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 5.62
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.33
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 8.5
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 9.22
    • Horace, Epistulae, 1.1
    • Ovid, Fasti, 2
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