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LECTI´CA in Greek φορεῖον or σκιμπόδιον (D. C. 57.4), was a litter or palanquin in which persons were carried in a lying position from one place to another. For sick persons and invalids of both sexes they were no doubt in use in Greece from early times, but probably in the form of the ordinary bed, being usually called κλίνη. As an article of luxury the φορεῖα were introduced from Asia, where they had been long in use, and were at Athens employed for carrying ladies (see Suidas, s.v. who calls them γυναικεῖα); and by men only when they were lame or in ill-health. The lame Artemon, who habitually used a litter, was nicknamed περιφόρητος, either because this indulgence even for a lame man was unusual, or because, according to one account, he used a specially luxurious hammock (Plut. Per. 27; Anacr. ap. Ath. 12.533; Andoc. de Myst. § 61; Plut. Eum. 14). If a man without any physical necessity made use of a lectica, he drew upon himself the censure of his countrymen as a person of effeminate character (Dinarch. c. Demosth. § 36). The φορεῖα were light bedsteads with mattress and pillows, and an awning, supported by four posts, with curtains to it (Plut. Eum. l.c.). When the Macedonian conquests had made the Greeks better acquainted with Asiatic luxury, φορεῖα were not only more generally used, but were also more magnificently adorned: so Antigonus provides one for Nicaea, βασιλικῶς κεκοσμημένον (Plut. Arat. 17). The bearers were called φορεαφόροι, and were usually four in number (D. L. 5.73; Lucian, Somn. s. Gall. 10; cf. Plut. Pel. 30. See also Becker-Göll, Charikles, 1.200).

At Rome, as in Greece, no doubt the sick were carried on some sort of couch from the earliest times: e. g. Latinus in the year B.C. 489 was carried into the forum on what Livy calls a lectica (Liv. 2.36); but it probably was merely the sick man's bed (cf. Catull. 10.17). The lectica strictly so called was probably first introduced into Rome from Asia after the victories over Antiochus, and then used chiefly for travelling; rarely in the streets of Rome itself. The earliest mention of it is found in a speech of Gaius Gracchus quoted by Gellius (10.3). From this passage it is evident that the lectica was an article of luxury lately borrowed from Asia, whence the rustic imagined it to be a bier conveying a dead man, though (unlike an ordinary bier) it was covered. The lectica had an arched roof (cf. arcus, Tac. Ann. 15.57), consisting of leather stretched over it upon four posts, much like the Greek φορεῖον, and the sides also were covered with curtains (vela, plagae or plagulae): hence Martial speaks of “lectica tuta pelle veloque” (cf. Suet. Tit. 10): such a litter is called by Greek historians φορεῖον κατάστεγον. Tiberius sent Agrippina and her children after their condemnation in a litter with the curtains sewn up (obsuta, Suet. Tib. 64). In the Empire, however, as time went on, curtains were not thought a sufficient protection; and we find that lecticae used by men as well as women were closed at the sides with windows made of talc (lapis specularis), whence Juvenal (4.20) calls it antrum clausum latis specularibus (compare Juv. 3.239). We sometimes find mention of a lectica aperta (Cic. Phil. 2.24, 58), but we have no reason to suppose that in this case it had no roof, for the word aperta probably means nothing more than that the curtains were drawn aside: it was considered incorrect for women to go in a litter with the curtains open (Sen. de Benef. 1.9, 3; Apul. 76). The whole lectica was of an oblong form, and the occupant lay on a bed, his head being supported on a pillow so that he might read and write in it with ease. To what extent this luxury was carried as early as the time of Cicero, may be seen from one of his orations against Verres (5.11, 27). Feather beds seem to have been used (Juv. 1.159): the framework, as well as the other furniture, was often of the most costly description, adorned with ivory and silver (Lamprid. Heliogab. 4). The lectica, when standing, rested on four feet: it was carried by slaves (lecticarii) by means of poles (asseres) attached to it, but not fixed, so that they could easily be taken off (Suet. Calig. 58; Juv. 7.122, 3.245; Mart. 9.23, 9). These asseres generally rested on the shoulders of the lecticarii, being passed through lora,--that is, straps fixed on the lectica (Sen. Ep. 80, 110; Juv. 3.240; Mart. 2.57): sometimes they were carried lower by straps (struppi) round the necks of the bearers, like the modern tragsessel (Gel. 10.3; cf. Plut. Per. 27). The art of taking the lectica upon the shoulders was called succollare, and the person who was carried was said succollari (Plin. Nat. 35.117; Suet. Otho 6). From this passage we also learn that the name lecticarii was sometimes incorrectly applied to those slaves who carried a person in a sella or sedan-chair. The number of lecticarii employed in carrying one lectica varied according to its size, and the display of wealth which a person might wish to make. The ordinary number was probably two (Petron. Sat. 56; Juv. 9.142); but it varied from two to eight, and the lectica is called hexaphoron or octophoron, accordingly as it was carried by six or eight persons (Juv. 1.64; Mart. 2.81, 6.77; Cic. c. Verr. 5.11, ad Q. Fr. 2.10). Wealthy Romans kept certain slaves solely as their lecticarii (Cic. Fam. 4.1. 2); and for this purpose they generally selected the tallest, strongest, and most handsome men, and had them always well dressed. Liburnians seem to [p. 2.15]have been much used for this in Juvenal's time (3.240, 4.75, 6.477), so that Liburnus was used for the office, like the word Suisse in Paris. In the first passage, it is true, some read Liburna, and explain it as a sort of litter,--“named from the Liburni,” is Professor Mayor's suggestion; but he adopts the reading Liburno in his text, and this in view of the two other passages is most probable. In the time of Martial it seems to have been customary for the lecticarii to wear red liveries. The lectica was generally preceded by a slave called anteambulo, whose office was to make room for it (Martial, 3.46; Plin. Ep. 3.14; compare Becker-Göll, Gallus, 2.158). The following cut shows a lectica constructed from fragments found on the Esquiline in 1874.

Lectica. (See Castellani,
Bull. Commun.
1881, p. 214, tav. 15.)

Shortly after the introduction of these lecticae among the Romans, and during the latter period of the Republic, they appear to have been very common, though they were chiefly used in journeys, and in the city of Rome itself only by ladies and invalids (D. C. 57.17). But the love of this as well as of other kinds of luxury increased so rapidly, that Julius Caesar thought it necessary to restrain the use of lecticae, and to confine the privilege of using them to certain persons of a certain age, and to certain days of the year (Sueton. Caes. 43).

In the reign of Claudius we find that the privilege of using a lectica in the city was still a great distinction, which was only granted by the emperor to his especial favourites (Suet. Cl. 28). It was apparently a senatorial privilege granted by Claudius as a favour to his freedman Harpocras (Friedländer, 1.157). But what until then had been a privilege became gradually a right assumed by all, and every wealthy Roman kept one or more lecticae, with the requisite number of lecticarii. The Emperor Domitian, however, forbade prostitutes the use of lecticae (Suet. Domit. 8). There was a company or corpus lecticariorum with officers over them. In the inscriptions we find praepositus lecticariorum, decurio lecticariorum (C. L. L. 8874, 5), and a castra lecticariorum in the Regio transtiberina belonging to the lecticarii publici, who stood ready for the service of the magistrates (Preller, Regionen, p. 218), but probably also for general hire (Juv. 6.353). They were of the class of freedmen (cf. Mart. 3.46).

The lectica above mentioned in which the occupant reclined, must be distinguished from the sella gestatoria or sedan-chair in which he sat [see SELLA]; but, if Dio is right in his statement that the sella was never used before the reign of Claudius, we must conclude that Suetonius in Aug. 53 uses one inadvertently for the other. Lectica is also used sometimes as the word for a bier, which is more usually called lectus or lectus funebris [see under LECTUS]. (For further information see Becker-Göll, Gallus, 3.29; Marquardt, Privatleben, 736.)

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

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