• Greek culture can be said to have begun with the Bronze Age civilization of the
Minoans in Crete.
• The Minoans built vast palaces, and were skilled in metalwork, pottery, artwork
and the crafting of jewelry.
• Civilization on the Greek mainland followed closely behind that of Crete, and
Greece soon became the cultural center of the ancient world.
• Ancient Greek civilization was at its zenith during the Classical era, from 499 BC
to 79 BC.
• The early Greeks were encouraged to be great thinkers and philosophers. Their
scientists and mathematicians laid the groundwork that made today's scientific
• They loved to gather together to discuss concepts, ideas, religion and politics,
spending much time in the agora (marketplace) in conversation and argument.
• Ancient Greeks were great lovers of beauty, art, literature and drama, and
enjoyed listening to stories, fables and legends.
ANC IE NT G R E E K F UR NIT UR E
• The Greek history of furniture can be traced back to the heritage of Egyptian
• The earliest Greek civilizations borrowed styles and ideas from Egypt, but by the
Classical era, designs had subtly changed to a style that was uniquely Greek.
• Lines became softer, much use was made of subtle and elegant curves, and more
attention was given to comfort.
• Although almost no furniture has survived the centuries, Greek artwork such as
pottery decorations and friezes depict daily Greek life in Greek homes, and this
has given us an accurate idea of early Greek furniture designs.
• Early Greek furniture was largely influenced from furniture crafted by the
• Unlike Egypt, Greece had enough timber for furniture making.
• Paintings created during that era depict furniture as unbending and rectangular. 5
• Furniture found during the classical Greek era differed little from that of early
• Modern life in Western civilization has many of its roots and background in
ancient Greece. Much of ancient Greek culture such as drama, art, architecture,
literature, mythology, and the Olympic games all began in one small country in
• Yet there is another aspect of Greek life affecting culture today that is often
• No indoor ancient Greek furniture has survived to present day due to the fact
that it was entirely made of wood.
• The examples of the furniture that we see today in vase paintings, sculptures,
and reliefs from the Parthenon are considered by historians to be valid.
• Yet, these are but artists depictions of what furniture was.
• The only surviving furniture was used in outdoor plays, and is believed to ill-
represent the common furniture of the people.
T HE C ONFIG UR AT I O N OF G R E E K F UR NIT UR E
• So much wealth in the form of precious
metals like gold, bronze etc were
lavished in typical Greek furniture.
• The Greeks took time to configure some
complicated designs of furniture and
this made their technology in furniture
Couches for dining halls
• For example, the ancient Greek couch was used for resting as well as for eating. It
was constructed with the horizontal reclining area at table height, rather than low
and at an incline.
• The headrest was often curved to support pillows and no foot rest was used.
• Their stools were built in a variety of configurations and the legs were mostly built 7
in trumpet form or a rectangular design based on a columnar form.
• There were the folding stools with X-shaped legs and stationary stools with
straight legs which were made.
• Greek furniture styles were simple, elegant and tasteful. Although carving and
inlays were used, furniture was not over-decorated.
• Houses were not cluttered with much furniture, and household items were made
for use and comfort rather than decoration.
• However, the Greek love of beauty and art extended to furniture design, and the
few simple items of furniture in an early Greek household were often works of
art in their own right.
• Oak, maple, beech, citrus and willow were the main woods which did not
require any veneering technique.
• Marble and bronze were used in conjunction with or to replace wood, and laid
ivory, ebony, and precious stones were lavished on the finest wooden pieces,
which sometimes had feet of silver.
• Carved and painted decoration was almost commonplace in this rich market. 8
• Sears were fitted with perfumed and brightly coloured cushions.
T Y P E S OF F UR NIT UR E
• Elegant interiors with marble columns, stucco ceilings and mosaic floors, are
portrayed in frescoes and marble carvings.
• From the 7th century BCE to 4th century BCE, there were 5 main types of
furniture : stools, couches, small tables, chests, and chairs.
• The early kinds of ancient Greek furniture were predominantly influenced by
Egyptian furniture. Characteristic of this early furniture was a stiff,
rectangular, and unflattering shape.
Pompeii wall painting depicting
women and luxury textiles
covering the seat.
valuables into chests
ST OOL S
• Two main styles of stools of ancient Greece have
survived through reliefs.
• The first type looks more like a small table. The
typical stool consisted of a flat top and four straight
legs. This stool was known as a Bathron.
• There was no back support and the bottom was hard
Stool &small table
A women holding a
basket (situla). Behind
her a stool with a woven
• The second type of stool was made lightweight and
easy to carry-the X stool.
• The X-stool, also known as the diphros okladias,
was easily movable and did not have a specific
place in the home. It consisted of three animal legs
pointed inwards and ending with lion's paws.
• These were used both indoors and outdoors.
• When masters went out to stroll in the streets, the
diphoros okladias was carried by a servant so that
it would be ready immediately whenever he might “Diphros Okladias”
wish to rest. X-frame style
• Some of these were greatly decorated and used as backless thrones outdoor in
similar manner. 12
• X-framed stools enjoyed both popular and official status, the straight legged
version (sella curilis) being used by magistrates.
• The third type of stool, the Thronos or throne, was a type of stool known only to
the wealthy. The Thronos was ornately decorated and was often times lined with
• The thronos or throne-chair, was always reserved for the use of the most
important person present. Often a god was depicted on a throne which was
carved with ram’s heads at the ends of the arms or whose back was shaped like a
snake or a horse’s head.
• The footstool, which was used for access to couches and other high furniture,
was known as the Theyns.
COUCHES - KLINES
• Greek Kline- The Greeks followed the
Eastern tradition of lying down to eat.
• The couches, known as klines, had a
headboard that could be used as a
backrest while sitting, and were elegantly
• They were made entirely of wood, but often had bronze legs
cast in animal styles.
• The klines were placed around the walls, and small tables
were placed next to them to hold the food and drink.
• Kline from klino (cause to lean), from which also the word
clinic and clinical is derived (that on which one reclines).
• It was made of wood or bronze, and was often richly 14
of a kline
• Various types and sizes of chests were used for
• These usually had gabled lids and some painted with
flowers and figures or elaborately decorated with inlay
and bronze or silver mounts.
• Chests were prized pieces of furniture, and would
often be passed down from one generation to another. Woman putting
• Chests were originally made similar to those of the valuables into chests
Egyptian style and then took on their own style.
• Chests were the only means for storing clothing because
shelves were generally not used for that purpose.
• Jewelry, Valuables and fruits were hidden alongside the
clothing for protection. 15
• Chests were also often valued enough to be part of a
wife's dowry into use in the Hellenistic period Woman putting
• Some of the chests made of wood were used as coffins. clothes into a chest
• Greek furniture was treated architecturally.
• Beds usually had the appearance of Greek temples and
usually were made of stone.
C H AI R S The Hard
• Prior to the invention of a type of chair known as the Klismos stiff back
by the Greeks in the 5th Century BCE, chairs were the same as Chair
those of Egypt and Persian.
• These chairs had hard stiff backs and arms. Even the people
depicted in paintings and friezes sitting in these types of chairs
look to be uncomfortable.
• Rather than being designed to be comfortable, these chairs of the 6th and 7th
Centuries BCE were purely ceremonial in nature.
• The 5th Century BCE brought along a new era in Greek chairs and furniture.
• The Klismos was an entirely new type of chair designed by the The Klismos
Greeks. It's smooth and flowing shape inspired cultures of the
Middle Ages and the early 19th Century to revive the concept.
• The Klismos, used principally by women, was made with 17
delicately curved back and legs.
Klismos chair • These features allowed the sitter to be in a freer and
more natural position; the backs of these chairs,
referred to as Stiles, were designed to the curvature
of the back for comfort and extended to the shoulders.
• The Klismos, like most other furniture, was made of
wood and not ornately decorated.
• In order to increase the comfort, cushions and animal
skins were usually placed on the Klismos.
• By Hellenistic times, the general shape and structure
Klismos - The backs of of the Klismos had already started to change.
these chairs, referred to • Chairs once again became heavier and more rigid.
as Stiles, were designed • The general concept of comfort over ceremony has
to the curvature of the luckily survived through these changes so that a piece
back for comfort and of furniture from 2500 years ago does not seem at all 18
extended to the strange today.
shoulders. Used mainly
• Couches of ancient Greece were
combinations of beds and sofas. This type
of furniture, called the Kline, was made for
sleeping as well as dining.
• During meals Greek diners would lie down rather
than sit to eat. The Greek tend to recline rather than
sit originated in the 6th century.
• Greek couches were similar to those of the
Egyptians except for two differences.
• They stood higher off the ground, so much that a
footstool was sometimes used as a means of
Sometimes a kline was used
access; and second, there was a headboard but no
even on a horse
• The height allowed for easier access to tables and also allowed room beneath to
fit tables. The headboard was used as a means of back support while eating.
T AB L E S
• A common wood type table was rectangular and stood
on three legs. There were two legs at one end, the third
being in the centre of the other end.
• The Greeks had one set item to be placed upon their
tables: food; The ancient Greeks did not use tables as
places to set up trinkets or valuables, but merely used
them in their most basic purpose.
• Tables were low and mostly movable, credences and
drinking tables being often three-legged and made of
• Most ancient tables, were made with 3 rather than 4
legs to create a better sense of balance.
• These tables could be made of bronze or marble, but 20
typically of wood. This type of table was the most table with lion form legs
common up until the 4th Century BCE when square
topped tables were replaced with round tops.
AD D I T I O N AL F U R N I S H I N G S
• The previously mentioned furnishings were usually the bare essentials for
a family living in ancient Greece.
• There are also other furnishings which were less useful and more
decorative. These, of course, belonged to the wealthy.
• Wealthy Greeks enjoyed the luxuries of incense burners, vases, and large
vases known as Lebeti as a part of daily life.
• LEBETI - he vases of the wealthy were decorative and were often
times made of precious or semi-precious metals. These vases,
along with Lebeti, were made by highly skilled workers and were
often times ornately decorated.
• Lebeti were "elegant nuptial vases of eighteen inches high and
minutely decorated with stories from history or legend...“ 21
• Lebeti, in addition to their decorative purpose, were used as water
jugs and large bowls.
Marble Table – typical three
legged with a Round top
A chair designed for small children.
Baby on Stool with Mother
Marble Table – Supported on a
single Leg – Animal faced leg
G R E E K HOUSE S
• The Greek house consist of two parts:
The northern house and
The southern house.
• The northern house begins with a single large room, "the great hall," then lesser
rooms are added to it. It gets its light from windows in the outer walls, and it is
covered by a single steep roof.
• The southern (Greek and Oriental) house is a building with all rooms arranged
around a rectangular court. The rooms, many or few, get their light from this
court, while they are quite shut off from the world outside. All in all, for warm
climates this style of house is far more airy, cool and comfortable than the other.
The wide open court becomes the living room of the house during the hot seasons.
Houses in ancient Athens
P L AN OF A G R E E K HOUSE
• The plan of a Greek house naturally varies infinitely according to the size of the
land plot, the size of the owner's family, his own taste, and wealth.
• It will usually be rectangular, with the narrower side toward the street; but this is
• In the larger houses there will be two courts (aule), one behind the other, and
each with its own circuit of dependent chambers.
AN D R O N I T I S
• The court first entered will be the Andronitis (the Court of the Men), and may
be even large enough to afford a considerable promenade for exercise.
• Around the whole of the open space run lines of simple columns, and above the
opening swings an awning if the day is very hot.
• In the very center rises a small stone alter with a statue of Zeus the Protector 26
(Zeus Herkeios), where the father of the family will from time to time offer
sacrifice, acting as the priest for the household.
• This is where the family spent most of its time, and only when guests appeared
would the women disappear to their own quarters.
• In summer, the family would eat in the andronitis, and would gather to tell and
listen to stories in the evenings. In the center a small shrine to Zeus was normally
• In fine weather, the women of the family would spin, weave and sew here, listening
to the men discussing the latest ideas gleaned from the Agora.
• The Andronitis is the true living room of the house: here the master will receive
his visitors, and only the male slaves work here.
• The decoration is very plain: the walls are neatly tinted with some kind of wash;
the floor is of simple plaster, or, in a humbler house, common earth pounded hard.
• Under the colonnade at all four sides open the various chambers, possibly twelve
in all. They really are cells or compartments rather than rooms, small and usually
lighted only by their doors. 27
• Some are used for storerooms, some for sleeping closets for the male slaves and
for the grown-up sons of the house, if there are any.
AN D R O N
• Leading from the andronitis was the andron, or men's dining room - probably the
most pretentious room in the house.
• This is where male guests were entertained to symposia - dinner parties and
convivial evenings companionably spent over an amphora or two of wine.
• In one corner is the family hearth, once the real fire for the whole household
cooking, but now merely a symbol of the domestic worship.
• It is simply a little round alter sacred to Hestia, the hearth goddess, who
corresponds to the Roman goddess Vesta, and on its duly rekindled flame little
"meat offerings and drink offerings" are cast at every meal, humble or elaborate.
• Women were strictly excluded from these festivities.
• The andron was likely to be the most elaborate room in the house, often having a
mosaic floor and luxurious decor.
• In the rear wall of the Andron facing the Andronitis is a solid door. 28
• Only the father, sons, or near male kinsmen of the family are allowed to go inside,
for it leads into the Gyneconitis, the hall of the women.
G YN E C O N I T I S
• The women are forbidden to participate in so much of public life that their own
peculiar world is especially reserved to them.
• Male guests to houses were allowed no further than the andron; beyond this were
the women's quarters.
• The Gynæconitis, or Hall of the Women, was a second colonnaded
courtyard, with its own set of rooms leading from it.
• These would include the kitchen, possibly a bathroom, more storage rooms, and
small sleeping chambers for the female slaves.
T H AL A M O S
• Leading from this, or possibly on a second storey, would be the thalamos - the
master bedroom belonging to the master and mistress of the house.
• Some houses contained a second large bedroom, known as the ante-thalamos, 29
for the daughters of the house.
• The most precious possessions and ornaments of the family, as well as the best
furniture, would be kept in the thalamos.
• One of the rooms in the very rear is the kitchen;
• Others are the sleeping closets of the slave women.
• Another special room is set apart for the working of wool, although this chief
occupation of the female part of the household is likely to be carried on in the
open inner court itself, if the weather is fine.
F UR NISHI NG S OF A G R E E K HOUSE
• These houses, even owned by the lordly rich, are surprisingly simple in their
• The furniture includes - Beds, couches, chairs (usually backless), stools,
footstools, and small portable tables.
• Huge chests, heavy and carved, in which most of the household could be locked
away were the main storage furniture.
• Oriental carpets are often used as wall draperies or couch covers rather than 30
upon the floors.
• There was a very simple wardrobe – or a chest of drawers for the storage of
• There is a marked absence of heavy and unhealthful upholstery; but the simple
bed - four posts with cushion stuffed with feathers or wool has its woodwork
adorned with carving.
• On festival days the house will be hung with brilliant and elaborately wrought
tapestries usually kept in the great chests.
• The whole bed is given an elegant effect by the magnificently embroidered
scarlet tapestry which overspreads it.
• Moreover, the different household vessels, the stone and bronze lamps, the
various table dishes, even the common pottery put to the humblest uses, all have
a beauty, a chaste elegance, a saving touch of deft ornamentation, which
transforms them out of "kitchen ware" into works of art.
• Those black water pots covered with red-clay figures are simple but supremely
• In conclusion, it is easy to see the effect that ancient Greeks furnished their
houses with five main types of furniture in ancient Greece which were made for
practicality then, and have continued to serve their purpose to this day.
• The stools, couches, tables, chests, and chairs of the Greeks are merely more
additions to the grand assortment of Greek items and ideas that have had an
immense influence on Western life today.
• Furniture is easier to carry than sculptures.
• The only complete surviving piece of wooden classical Greek furniture was found
far from Greece, in an Egyptian tomb. And Rome also must have imported Greek
• An impressive and influential stone throne exists in three identical versions this
is a marble throne in S. Giorgorio Magno, Rome decorated with winged lions and
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