The Garden Guide

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

Roman garden design taste

Previous - Next

62.The Roman taste in gardens has been condemned as unnatural; but such criticism we consider as proceeding from much too limited a view of the subject. Because the Roman gardens were considered as scenes of art, and treated as such, it does not follow that the possessors were without a just feeling for natural scenery. Where all around is nature, artificial scenes even of the most formal description will please, and may be approved of by the justest taste, from their novelty, contrast, and other associations. If all England were a scattered forest like ancient Italy, and cultivation were to take place only in the open glades or plains, where would be the beauty of our parks and picturesque grounds ? The relative or temporary beauties of art should therefore not be entirely rejected in our admiration of the more permanent and absolute beauties of nature. That the ancient Romans admired natural scenery with as great enthusiasm as the moderns, is evident from the writings of their eminent poets and philosophers; scarcely one of whom has not, in some part of his works, left us the most beautiful descriptions of natural scenery, and the most enthusiastic strains of admiration of all that is grand, pleasing, or romantic in landscape; and some of them, as Cicero and Juvenal, have deprecated the efforts of art in attempting to improve nature. �Whoever,� says Geo. Mason, �would properly estimate the attachment to rural picturesque among the heathen nations of old, should not confine his researches to the domains of men, but extend them to the temples and altars, the caves and fountains dedicated to their deities. Those, with their concomitant groves, were generally favourite objects of visual pleasure, as well as of veneration.� (Essay on Design, p. 24.)