In ancient Rome owning furniture was a mark of
social distinction. The majority of the population
would have lived a very simple existence with
only the most basic household items,
predominantly fashioned out of wood.
For the aristocracy however furnishings were
expertly handcrafted from the most durable and
costly materials such as marble and finished with
elaborate decorative details. Wealthy Roman
domestic architecture featured hot and cold
running water, a sophisticated drainage system,
and in the most opulent homes, hot tubs
modeled after the public baths. Comparably,
their furnishings achieved a high level of
sophistication and artistry that would rival (if not
surpass) the finest pieces created today. One is
duly impressed by considering how advanced
civilisation was more than two thousand years
ago, at the same time realizing that the very
foundations of every convenience in our modern
lives are rooted in the past.
Wicker chairs, wooden couches with stuffed
cushions, beds supported on frames, tables used
for eating and drinking, storage cupboards,
decorative mosaic tiles, painted walls: all these
are furnishing elements which could be found in
an aristocratic Roman house.
This charming one legged marble table support
(trapezoforos, or to be more precise
“monopodium”) is an example of the beauty and
masterful artistry of Roman furniture. The
expressive head of the lion emerges from the
hard material more charming than imposing;
naturally so, as its sole goal is to attract and
delight us. The paw is elegantly articulated and
serves as a suitable base. Where as marble
Roman tables are usually identified as dining
room furniture, evidence from Roman reliefs and
frescoes depicting dining scenes attest that such
single leg table supports were mostly used to
hold glassware, being mostly a “vasariae
mensae”, a drinks table and not a dining table.
Sometimes such monopods also served as stands
for family cult images in small domestic shrines.
Whatever its original function, this stunning table
support is a luxurious remnant of ancient Roman
furniture design, an eloquent remain of how
wealthy upper class Romans lived their lives.