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Medieval and Byzantine History Medieval and Byzantine History Forum - Period of History between classical antiquity and modern times, roughly the 5th through 16th Centuries


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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:30 PM   #1

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They slept sitting up ?


On a recent tour of a medieval house I was told by the guide "People up until the the 19th century slept sitting up in bed and this is the reason the beds were short"

They did ?

Apparently there was a fear of assuming the posture of the dead and so propped themselves up on pillows..

They did ? .... I just couldn't believe this so tried to find evidence myself to prove the matter either way but drew a blank. Artists did show people sitting up in bed but this was generally because they weere awake. Rembrandt drew his wife sleeping but tantalisingly it's not entirly clear as to whether she propped up or not..

Has anyone heard this theory and can anyone prove it either way ?
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:35 PM   #2
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I have never heard such a thing, it is instinct and natural to lay when we are tired...
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:37 PM   #3

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I think the guide may have been applying his own logic to the question of shorter beds and may not have been aware of the obvious point, people in the middle and early modern ages were smaller than modern human beings. Thus smaller beds.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:38 PM   #4

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I've heard this before, whether its true or not is another matter.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:39 PM   #5
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Surely they were not all so paranoid and delusional that they sat up every night to sleep?
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:53 PM   #6

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Von Ranke View Post
I think the guide may have been applying his own logic to the question of shorter beds and may not have been aware of the obvious point, people in the middle and early modern ages were smaller than modern human beings. Thus smaller beds.
Curiously I asked another guild the same question at another site and he repeated this claim. So no it wasn't isolated to a single guide with a taste for spicing up his tour.

The bed length is interesting because they were rarely shorter than modern beds. They look shorter because they're wider and taller but very rarely shorter.The great bed of ware for example from 1590 is 10 foot long.

Average height I've reserched before. In early medieval times people were not far from what people are now. It wasn't until people move to cities that people became much shorter . ( most ripper victims were under 5 foot. )

So niether reference points to anyone ever sitting up to sleep or lying down.

@Brisieis ,.. I entirly agree.. it's just not natural to sit up to sleep.

Last edited by Fabien; November 26th, 2011 at 03:00 PM.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 02:58 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fabien View Post
Curiouisly I asked another guilde the same question at another site and he repeated this claim. So no it wasn't isolated to a single guide with a taste for spicing up his tour.

The bed length is interesting because rarely were they shorter than modern beds. They look shorter because they're wider and taller but very rarely shorter.The great bed of ware for example from 1590 in 10 foot long.

Average hight is an interesting one that I've reserched before. In early medieval times people were not far from what people are now. It wasn't until people move to cities that people became much shorter . ( most ripper victims were under 5 foot. )

So niether refernce points to anyone ever sitting up to sleep or lying down.

@Brisieis ,.. I entirly agree.. it's just not natural to sit up to sleep.
I think the tour guides were probably simply told what to say, probably from an idiot from the sounds of it. They memorize what to say from a script.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 03:00 PM   #8

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Having visited various European historic houses over the years, I can attest that some of the sleeping arrangements wouldn't have accommodated even the smaller statured people of the Middle Ages lying down stretched out; you can find sort of bunk arrangements that are only four feet in length or slightly less, for instance. The people may not have slept sitting up exactly, but propped up or curled. One theory I've heard more than once is that the reason people used these small sleeping cubicles was to conserve heat. Whether that is any more accurate than the "afraid of lying down because that is the posture of death" idea, I can't say.
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Old November 26th, 2011, 03:03 PM   #9
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How on earth did they procreate then? Would not be any fun in dwarf's bed...
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Old November 26th, 2011, 03:08 PM   #10

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This was a very common situation,if they lied flat they felt they might die : ie..allowing death to take their souls as they were in the prone position.
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