The Garden Guide

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

Roman garden design

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I. Roman Gardening, as an Art of Design and Taste 45. The first mention of a garden in the Roman history is that of Tarquinius Superbus, B. C. 534, by Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. From what they state, it can only be gathered, that this garden was adjoining to the royal palace, in the city of Rome; and that it abounded with flowers, chiefly roses, lilies, and poppies, in beds, and was supplied with a stream of water. The next in the order of time are the gardens of Lucullus, situated on the promontory of Misenum, near Bai�, in the Bay of Naples. They were of a magnificence and expense rivalling those of the eastern monarchs; and procured to this general the epithet of the Roman Xerxes. They consisted of vast edifices projecting into the sea; of immense artificial elevations; of plains formed where mountains formerly stood; and of vast pieces of water, which it was the fashion of that time to dignify with the pompous titles of Nilus and Euripus. Plutarch informs us that the palace and terraced gardens were surrounded by sea water, which was introduced through subterranean passages, communicating with the sea. From the buildings and the artificial mountains, the most extensive prospects were obtained, both inland and marine. Ph�drus mentions the island of Sicily on the one hand, and the Tuscan Sea, now the Bay of Leghorn, on the other, as seen from the highest mount. Lucullus had made several expeditions to the eastern part of Asia, and it is probable he had there contracted a taste for this sort of magnificence. Varro ridicules these works for their amazing sumptuosity; and Cicero makes his friend Atticus hold cheap those magnificent waters, in comparison with the natural stream of the river Fibrenus, where a small island accidentally divided it. (De Legibus, lib. ii.) Lucullus is said to have had many other villas in different parts of Italy, so that by changing from one to the other, which he used to boast of doing �with the storks and cranes,� he enjoyed an agreeable climate every month in the year. Amidst so much folly and extravagance, however, he introduced the cherry, the peach, and the apricot from the East, and thus conferred a benefit, which still remains, on mankind. Lucullus died about B. C. 47, (Plutarch in Vita Luculli; Sallust; and Varro de Re Rustica.)