14 - The Roman Room System

The Romans were great inventors and practitioners of mnemonic techniques, one of their most popular being the Roman Room. The Romans constructed such a system easily. They imagined the entrance to their house and their room and then filled the room with as many objects and items of furniture as they chose — each object and piece of furniture serving as a link-image onto which they attached the things they wished to remember.

The Romans were particularly careful not to make a mental rubbish dump of their room; precision and order (attributes of the left side of your brain) are essential in this system.

A Roman might, for example, have constructed his imaginary entrance and room with two gigantic pillars at either side of the front door, a carved lion's head as his doorknob, and an exquisite Greek statue on the immediate left as he walked in. Next to the statue might have been a flowering plant; next to the plant, a large sofa covered with the fur of one of the animals the Roman had hunted; and, in front of the sofa, a large marble table on which were placed goblets, a wine container, bowls of fruit, and so forth.

Let's say that the Roman then wished to remember to buy a pair of sandals, to get his sword sharpened, to buy a new servant, to tend to his grapevine, to polish his helmet, to talk to his child, and so on. He would simply imagine the first pillar at the entrance of his imaginary room festooned with thousands of sandals, the leather polished and glistening, and the smell delighting his nostrils; he would imagine sharpening his sword on the right-hand pillar, hearing the scraping as he did so, and feeling the blade as it became sharper and sharper; his servant he would imagine riding a roaring lion, while grapes he might remember by imagining his exquisite statue totally entwined with a grapevine on which were luscious grapes that he could imagine seeing and tasting so well that he would actually salivate; his helmet he could imagine by substituting the container of his imaginary flowering plant with the helmet itself; finally, he could imagine himself on his sofa, his arm around the child to whom he wished to speak.

The Roman Room System is particularly amenable to the use of the left and right brain, and to the Memory Principles, because it requires very precise structuring and ordering, as well as a lot of imagination and sensuality. The delight of this system is that the room is entirely imaginary, so you can have in it every wonderful item that you wish: things that please all your senses, items of furniture and objects of art you have always desired to possess in real life, and similarly foods and decorations that especially appeal to you.

Another major advantage of using this system is that if you begin to imagine yourself in possession of certain items that exist in your imaginary room, both your memory and creative intelligence will begin to work subconsciously on ways in which you can actually acquire such objects, increasing the probability that you will eventually do so.

The Roman Room System eliminates all boundaries on your imagination and allows you to remember as many items as you wish. Find drawing paper for you to jot down quickly your first thoughts on the items you would like to have in your room, the shape and design of your room, and so on.

When you have completed this, draw your ideal Memory Room, either as an artist's drawing or as an architect's plan, both drawing and printing in the names of items with which you are going to furnish and decorate it. Many people find this to be their favourite memory system, and they use enormous sheets of paper on which they include hundreds of items in a gigantic room. If you wish to do this, by all means do so.

When you have completed this task, take a number of 'mental walks' around your room, memorising precisely the order, position and number of items in the room (left brain) and similarly sensing with all your senses the colours, tastes, feels, smells and sounds within your room.

As with the previous memory systems you have learned, practise memorising using the Roman Room System both alone and with friends, until the system is a firmly established technique.

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