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This bed frame, reassembled from fragments, is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Gallery 168). You could expect a couch like this to be used for either sleeping or dining.

Our knowledge of Roman furniture comes mainly from frescoes and sculptures as well as actual pieces and fragments preserved during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. On the couch pictured here, the legs are friezes of huntsmen, horses, and hounds flanking Ganymede, the handsome Trojan youth who was abducted by Zeus in the guise of an eagle to serve as his wine steward; on the footstool are scenes of winged cupids and leopards; and on the sides of the bed frame, the lions have eyes inlaid with glass.

In The Deadliest Sport, Miriam visits her father’s wealthy friend, Amram, when he is ill. She sees him on a sleeping couch:

Surrounded by a battery of squat tables, some rosewood, others mahogany and teak, each jammed with herbs and unguents, vials and flasks, ligatures and sweat-drenched towels, Amram looked smaller than ever on his sleeping couch, like a skin-draped skeleton, his teeth too big for his face. His ancient hands were translucent as they poked out from the coverlet, his knuckles as iridescent as a string of pearls. His face was flecked with fever and his lips caked with dried blood, but his breathing, though shallow, was regular.

This fine example of Roman furniture is rare. The only other one is found in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. The Deadliest Sport, however, another fine example, can be found wherever books are sold. To watch the video, just click here:

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