The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 2: Roman Gardens (500BC-500AD)

Hadrian's Villa Garden

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57.The villa of the emperor Adrian, near Tivoli, appears to have been more a palace than a garden, though its grounds were extensive, and contained a considerable variety of surface. They are said to have included a Vale of Tempe, Elysian Fields, Regions of Tartarus, a Naumachia, or place for the exhibition of mock naval combats, &c.; but there is no evidence of their having borne much resemblance to the Persian paradises. An attempt has been made by some Italian artists to restore the architecture of Adrian's palace; and views of the ruins as they actually exist (fig. 8.) have lately been published by different British tourists. These ruins, which we examined in 1819, are standing evidences of excellent masonry, but afford no proof of refined taste in either architecture or gardening. They are situated on a hill, nearly detached, amidst tall cypresses, magnificent stone pines, and other products of a luxurious vegetation. Their extent is immense. �We walked,� says Wood, �for above a mile among arches, great semi-domed recesses, long walls and corridors, and spacious courts, through an amazing number of small apartments, and some large halls. In many places the painted stucco remains, with the ornaments upon it in relief; the rich marbles and porphyries which incrusted the walls, the marble columns and cornices, and the numerous statues which once adorned the spacious porticoes, are all gone; much has been taken to Rome, much has been burnt to lime, and a great deal has been carelessly or wantonly destroyed. The varied forms of the remaining masses, the pines, the cypresses, the olives, the evergreen oaks, and the deciduous trees, with the different shrubs growing on the rains themselves, and by which they are more or less shaded, and whose colouring contrasts admirably with the warm brown of the buildings, together with the advantages of the natural situation, form a succession of the most beautiful and picturesque scenery. All the magnificence of this spot does not, however, seem to have been merely for one individual Besides the imperial apartments, and the habitations of the officers and guards, there were apartments provided for men of science, and every thing necessary for study and instruction as well as for amusement.� (Wood's Letters, vol. ii. p. 54.) Adrian died A. D. 138.