The Garden Guide

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

Nero Garden of Golden House

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49.he gardens of the emperor Nero, according to Tacitus (Annals, lib. 15.), bore a remarkable resemblance to the English park and pleasure grounds. Tacitus says, �Ceterum Nero usus est patri� ruinis, extruxitque domum, in qua haud perinde gemm� et aurum miraculo essent, solita pridem et luxu vulgata, quam arva et stagna et in modum solitudinum hunc sylv�, inde aperta spatia et prospectus; magistris et machinatoribus Severo et Celere, quibus ingenium et audacia erat, etiam qu� natura denegavisset, per artem tentare, et viribus principis illudere.� Thus translated: �� Moreover Nero turned the ruins of his country to his private advantage, and built a house, the ornaments of which were, not miracles of gems and gold, now usual in vulgar luxuries, but lawns and lakes, and after the manner of a desert; here groves, and there open spaces and prospects; the masters and centurions being Severus and Celer, whose genius and boldness could attempt by art what nature had denied, and deceive with princely force.� The striking similarity of this description to that of a modern park is too obvious to escape notice. Nero, probably, recalled to mind the pomp of the Persian kings; and, as he affected Eastern manners, might also desire Persian paradises. These circumstances have occasioned W. Forsyth, and Pinkerton, the editor of Walpoliana, to conclude, and with seeming reason, that the Persian paradise was the prototype of the English garden, and that the latter, of course, was far from being unknown to the Romans: in short, that a taste for the natural or irregular style, commonly thought to be of modern origin, is of as great antiquity as the taste for the regular or geometric manner. The author of the description of the gardens of Worlitz seems to be of the same opinion; observing in a note, that the Villa Tiburtina of Adrian and the Domus Aurea of Nero, according to the description of the latter by Suetonius, and of the former by �lius Spartianus, must be regarded as the first, and perhaps still unrivalled, prototypes of the art of laying out pleasure-grounds, which we now call English gardening. Nero died A. D. 68.