The Garden Guide

Pliny the Younger,

Born - Died : 62 - 114

Nephew of Pliny the Elder, also an orator, famed for his charming letters. Pliny's letters give an account of upper class Roman life in the first century and include many references to Pliny's own gardens. The letters were much studied during the renaissance as an authentic source of information on Roman gardens. The excerpt below is from one of Pliny's garden letters. It describes his villa at Tusci:- Many paths are separated by box. In one place you have a little meadow In another place the box is interposed in groups, and cut into a thousand different forms. Sometimes the letters express the name of the master, or that of the designer. Here and there little obelisks rise, mixed alternately with apple trees. Then suddenly, in the midst of this elegant regularity, you are surprised with an imitation of the negligent beauties of rural nature. In the centre is a spot surrounded with a knot of dwarf plane trees. Beyond these are clumps of the smooth and twisting acanthus. Then come a variety of figures and names cut in box. At the upper end of the garden is a semicircular bench of white marble. It is shaded with a vine which is trained upon four small pillars of Carystian marble. Water, gushes from several little pipes from under this bench, as if it were pressed out by the weight of the persons who sit upon it. The water falls into a stone cistern underneath, from whence it is received into a fine polished marble basin, so artfully contrived that it is always full without ever overflowing. When I eat here, the tray of dishes is placed around the margin, while the smaller dishes swim about in the form of little ships and waterfowl. Opposite this is a fountain which is incessantly emptying and filling, for the water which it throws up to a great height falling back again into it, is by means of connected openings returned as fast as it is received. Fronting the bench stands a chamber of lustrous marble, whose doors project onto a lawn. From the upper and lower windows of the chamber, the eye ranges upward or downward over other garden spaces. In different quarters are disposed several marble seats, which serve as so many reliefs after one is wearied with walking. Next to each seat is a little fountain. Throughout the hippodrome are small rills conveyed through pipes run murmuring along, wheresoever the hand of art has seen proper to conduct them. The rills water different spots of verdure, and bathe the whole.

Gardens designed by Pliny the Younger,