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The Roman Room: Increase Memory with Memory Mnemonics

RomeWhat if I told you that your brain had built-in filing cabinets where you could store any memory and come back to it whenever you chose? It does! Every room you’ve ever walked through has the possibility of storing memories.This memory system, called the Roman Room, can increase memory significantly! This is one of the most popular and versatile memory techniques. Memory experts use the Roman Room to memorize decks of cards in a a few minutes. I enjoy using this technique to take notes on books that I read and to keep a journal of my life (take our memory course to see how!).


What is a Roman Room?

Roman rooms have been used for centuries to increase memory. This technique was developed in ancient Rome. The way it works is that you associate new memories with objects that you already remember in a room. Generally, a Roman Room uses a room and ten objects inside that room. However, there’s no reason why you couldn’t make larger for longer lists to further increase memory. All you have to do is think back to objects inside your room to remember the memory you would like to store. By collecting Roman Rooms and Roman houses (a collection of rooms) you can memorize nearly limitless information.


A Quick History of the Roman Room

Simonides was called the inventor of the Roman Room. In his time, many people memorized long poems and would recite them at social gatherings (click here to read about the original discovery of the Roman Room). They needed memory systems that allowed them to increase memory. He taught this memory technique onto other poets and eventually the same technique was used for memorizing long speeches, lists, numbers, and virtually every other type of memorization. Many famous historical figures used the Roman Room Technique to increase memory. Aristotle writes about the technique in some of his surviving manuscripts. Also, famous monks and pastors such as Thomas Aquinas used Roman Rooms and other memory mnemonics. Aquinas was said to have memorized every book he ever read using memory mnemonics. That’s an incredible memory!


How to build a Roman Room

Let’s try an example. Begin by choosing a room in your house. Picture yourself standing in the doorway leading into that room. Now, look to your left and find the first item you see. Look for items that are unique. For example, a lamp works out better than a doorknob, since most of the doorknobs in your house will look similar. Once you have chosen the first item, continue in a clockwise direction and find another item. I’ll use ten items in my living room to help show you how to use a Roman Room:

  1. Coat Rack
  2. Book Shelf
  3. Decorative Porcelain Fish
  4. Rocking Chair
  5. Antique Clock
  6. A decorative birdcage on my entertainment center
  7. My son’s Wii
  8. Couch
  9. Stool
  10. A Unique Picture Frame

These 10 items will give me ten memory places inside my living room. This in turn makes my living room a filing cabinet for ten memories. By building Roman Rooms in all 9 rooms in my house (90 memory items), I can significantly increase memory.

It’s important to space out the items in your room. Generally, Roman Rooms consist of 10 memory places. So give yourself room for each of the ten memory places. You can try writing them down and fiddling with them until you have all ten items planned.


How to Use a Roman Room to Increase Memory

This memory technique is very powerful. Let me show you how I can use the Roman Room we created together to increase memory. I’ll offer a series of simple examples, but try out our Memory Course for a full memory system that’s practical to use to increase memory in everyday life.

Let’s go ahead and memorize 5 items in our list. Here are a few examples of information you may want to remember:

  • To do list: setup an appointment with the plumber and meeting with a customer at 2pm.
  • Grocery List: eggs, milk, and pasta.
  • Historic Facts: American Revolution began in 1775
  • Memorize Music: Example Chord Progression - G Am C G

Let me show you how to memorize these memories one at a time. First, let’s review the memory places in my Roman Room: 1) Coat Rack, 2) Book Shelf, 3) Decorative Porcelain Fish, 4) Rocking Chair, 5) Antique Clock, 6) A decorative birdcage on my entertainment center, 7) My son’s Wii inside my entertainment center, 8) Couch, 9) Stool, 10) Picture Frame .

To memorize the to-do list I’ll begin with the Coat Rack. To remember that I need to set an appointment with a plumber, I can take a plunger and imagine myself sticking it to the coat rack. Try picturing this vividly. Hear, it feel it, see it... vividness can increase memory quality.

First, we need to remember that there’s a meeting with a customer at 2pm. To accomplish this, picture a giant watch sitting on your book shelf. There’s an effective system for memorizing numbers that I’ll go over in a future article, but for now picture the hands of the watch at 2pm. Try to hold the picture in your mind for a 6 second. The length of your focus will increase memory by imprinting it deeply in your mind.

Next, let’s memorize our grocery list: eggs, milk, pasta, and cereal. We’re on the third memory place in our Roman Room, my decorative porcelain fish. Picture yourself throwing eggs violently at the fish. Hear them splatter. See the mess get everywhere. For the milk, I’ll picture myself dumping a gallon of milk all over my rocking chair. I see the pillow sitting on the rocking chair getting soaked with milk. Remember that vividness will increase memory. Finally, to memorize pasta I’ll picture pasta noodles hanging from the hands inside the clock.

All of these pictures use the basic principles of memory mnemonics discussed in our previous article "Memory Mnemonic Principles": association, imagination, and organization.

The next memory item is the date of the American Revolution, 1775. This number is best handled by the number system we’ll discuss in a later article. However, for right now let’s picture the number 1775 falling out of the sky and crushing American Revolution fighters inside my decorative birdcage. Since this particular image is complex, try separating out the separate pieces of the memory to increase memory quality. Take 6 seconds on each of the major pieces of the memory. First, picture the soldiers firing their weapons inside a birdcage. Then see the numbers falling. Lastly, visualize the end state: broken shards of cage flying everywhere with only the numbers 1775 standing.

Finally, let’s memorize the simple chord progression: G Am C G. To accomplish this, all we need to do is to change these letters into pictures. Let use vehicles. The G will be an image of a go-cart. The Am will be an Amtrak train. C will be a car.

Now, all you have to do is place these images in the memory places we made earlier. I’ll let you try making the images interact to increase memory through association.


  1. Try to visualize a go-cart interacting with a Wii console.
  2. Amtrak train and a couch.
  3. Car and a stool
  4. A go-cart and a picture frame.

Although these memory mnemonics are difficult to visualize at first, they become easier and easier with practice. This technique can significantly increase memory. If you took the time to visualize each of those pictures alongside me, try going back through the Roman Room and you’ll see that you can remember exactly what memory you placed in each location. I hope this memory technique helps you increase memory and try out our memory course for memory mnemonics that work in everyday life.