The Garden Guide

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

Roman Cemetery Gardens

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63.Roman cemeteries. The Romans, like the Greeks, buried their dead in groves and gardens, or by the borders of the public roads, that their names might be often brought to the remembrance of those who passed by. The tombs of the rich were commonly built of marble, the ground enclosed with a wall, or an iron rail, and planted round with trees. Private persons were frequently buried in their fields or gardens. Where a place of private sepulture was enclosed, there was generally a cippus, or pillar, in one corner, on which was marked the name of the owner, and the dimensions of the ground. The magnificent house and extensive gardens of Mï¾µcenas, the patron of Virgil and the favourite of Augustus, were placed on what was previously a public cemetery in Rome; but which had rendered the adjoining places unhealthy from the vast number of bodies deposited there. Burying in churches is an invention of comparatively modern times. Constantine is said to have been the first who ordered his sepulchre to be erected within consecrated walls, and the superstition which attended the imperfect Christianity of the earlier ages led others to follow his example; the church being regarded as a fortress, whose spiritual defences would keep off the evil spirits, which were always striving to break the rest of the dead. Two of the most celebrated ornaments of ancient Rome, were the tombs of Augustus and of Adrian. The former, called by way of eminence the Mausoleum, is described by Strabo as being a pendent garden, raised on lofty arches of white stone, planted with evergreen shrubs, and terminating in a point crowned with the statue of Augustus. At the entrance stood two Egyptian obelisks, round which arose an extensive grove cut into walks and alleys. The ruins are still of considerable size, and form a grand and striking object. The platform on the top was for a considerable time employed as a garden, and covered, as originally, with shrubs and flowers. It is now converted into an amphitheatre for bull-baiting. Wood, the architect, mentions in his Letters, (4to, London, 1828, ) that he saw a bull-fight in this mausoleum on a Sunday, followed by music and fire-works. The mausoleum of Adrian is the present Castle of St. Angelo. (Eustace, p. 266.; Wood's Letters of an Architect, vol. i. p. 45.)