Wednesday, 20 April 2005

How Romans started the day

Ancient Romans did not like to stay in bed in the morning. In fact, anyone who did opt f0r a lie-in was treated with contempt and probably suspected of being a drunken lout!
Romans typically woke up every day at sunrise. The Emperor Vespasian in fact preferred to rise before sunrise and plan who and what he was going to deal with and see to any paperwork.

The Roman bedroom was a simple, small room, not made to encourage anyone to want to stay in it for longer than was thought necessary. It was very much a functional room in the sense that it was just a place for the Roman to sleep at night. The shutters were thick and dark and when shut left the room in absolute darkness, so as to encourage sleep.
And if you thought that was rather Spartan and strict, the Roman bed was no cause for celebration either. It was usually a simple wooden affair, more like a sofa. The rich may have had a mattress consisting of swan's down, whereas the poor would have to make do with a hay-filled mattress. A coverlet would be flung on top of that and that was basically it! (No comfy soft pillows to relax on!).

In the morning the Roman would get up at sunrise. Those with slaves would be awakened by the hustle and bustle of cleaning; noises of brooms clattering about, sweeping and wiping to get rid of any dust from the previous day! The poor would be awakened by the noise from the streets outside, as the whole city went about its daily business. "To be alive is to be awake" was a how Romans thought.

There was no such thing as having a wash, a bath or breakfast. No no, you just got out of bed, slipped into your tunic and flung your toga on, drank a big glassful of water (all in one breath) and you were ready for the day! (I'd rather have bacon and eggs myself...).

Mid morning was considered to be from 8am to 9am and at this time the Roman would make his way to the Forum to catch up on the news, gossip and maybe do some networking.

7 comments:

lenin said...

Networking? History moves cyclically after all.

I find these Romans offensive. If they can't bring themselves to sleep in, they're fucking trouble-makers.

Alterior said...

Lenin, you may well find "these Romans" offensive as they are responsible for a great deal of what is now part of our so-called civilised world, for example Roman Law, roads, concrete and systematic, aggressive and highly organised empire-building!
Of course, the fact that they thought that being alive was to be awake (literally) may indicate that they were deprived of much sleep, a situation which can lead to many mental disorders....

Anonymous said...

Presumably the lack of decent artificial lighting had something to do with this - what time did they go to bed?

Good etymologies around here: the little room for sleeping was a "cubiculum" (from "cubare", to lie down) whence "cubicle", as most office workers must suspect.

Alterior said...

Romans went to bed rather late, considering what time they got up in the morning (dawn). As the Roman men would quite often stay at the baths until around 11pm (there were many distractions there...) and dinner would be served quite late anyway, (judging by descriptions of Roman banquets and dinners).

I like your suggestion of a connection between the Latin name used to describe the bedroom and the modern word used for areas in which work is meant to be done. I can assure you, there is no "cubare" going on here. :-)

lenin said...

You bloody great liar. I know for a fact that there's non-stop 'cubare' at your office...

Alterior said...

Surely if it's not within a cubicle it doesn't count?! Heh heh :-)

Light said...

re: Sleeplessness and mental disorders...U don't imagine the lead in their water pipes helped too much either.