Cubicula were small rooms used for a number of different purposes; on the upper story and in the interior of the house they often functioned as bedrooms, while the small rooms off the atrium may have been used for private meetings, libraries, etc. While the bedroom above, from the Villa at Boscoreale, has wonderfully detailed wall paintings designed to make the room appear more open and spacious, many cubicula were decorated more simply. Bedrooms were often furnished with no more than a sleeping couch and a small chest; this carbonized wooden chest, found in the upper story of a house in Herculaneum, at first glance appears to have a cross above it. However, this was probably a device for suspending another chest from the wall above it; the crucifix did not become a widely used symbol of Christianity until the fourth century CE, long after Herculaneum had been buried by Vesuvius.

Barbara F. McManus
December, 1998
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