Greek and Roman Gardens

Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

in Classics

ISBN: 9780195389661
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:
Greek and Roman Gardens

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Gardens were a fundamental feature of the classical world. In ancient Greece, while gardens were not included within houses, sacred groves and plants, especially trees, were ever-present elements of the Greek landscape throughout Antiquity. Much of our knowledge of Greek gardens and cultivated flora comes primarily from literature and paintings; few gardens have been recovered archaeologically. The transformative catalyst in the development of gardens in classical Antiquity was Alexander the Great’s conquests in the East. He visited some of the major palaces and the gardens of the Persian emperors and satraps and saw firsthand the well-established, extensive garden tradition of the Near East. As a result of Alexander’s conquest, considerable horticultural knowledge (and possibly specimen plants) from the East came back to the Mediterranean region, brought there by his armies and successors. These monumental, palatial gardens were created and flourished under the Hellenistic rulers. Gardens associated with philosophers also developed in the late classical and Hellenistic eras, although we lack archaeological evidence for these gardens. Rome, the newest power in the Mediterranean, also had a well-established, indigenous domestic garden tradition in which the ownership of a garden was fundamental to the identity of the Roman citizen. The Romans had the most diverse garden tradition in the ancient world, and it included domestic, villa, and palatial gardens as well as public parks and gardens associated with temples or sanctuaries. A rich tradition of garden and landscape painting also existed. Until the second half of the 20th century, the study of gardens lagged behind other fields of classical studies, largely due to a lack of archaeological evidence for gardens. However, the advent of garden archaeology, largely pioneered by W. F. Jashemski at Pompeii and its environs, has greatly increased our knowledge of ancient Roman gardens. Archaeology is vital to the study of Greek and Roman gardens as it expands our knowledge of garden design and plantings, although ancient sources remain essential to the interpretation of these remains. Garden archaeology is now being conducted across the whole Roman world. However, its application in the Greek world has lagged. The new archaeological discoveries have made it possible for scholars to now consider complex questions about design, plants, and horticulture as well as the meaning, purpose, and function of gardens in the ancient world.

Article.  10643 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Classical History ; Classical Literature ; Classical Philosophy

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