The Garden Guide

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

Roman Villa Garden

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51.The Roman villa. The most complete example we have of an ordinary sized Human villa is to be found in the ruins of one disinterred at Pompeii. It is situated on a sloping bank, and the front entrance opens, as it were, into the first floor; below which, on the garden side, into which the house looks (for the door is the only aperture on the side next the road), is a ground floor, with extensive arcades and open rooms, all facing the garden; and above are the principal rooms. It is spacious, and near the entrance was a bath with all the necessary appendages; in the rear the best rooms opened upon a terrace, running the whole width of the house, and overlooking a garden, or xystus, about thirty yards square: this was surrounded by a covered walk or portico continued under the terrace. The lower apartments, under the arcade, were paved with mosaic work, with coved ceilings, and beautifully painted. One of the rooms had a large glazed bow window; the glass was very thick, of a green colour, and set in lead like a modern casement. The walls and ceilings of the villa are ornamented with paintings of elegant design, all of which have a relation to the uses of the apartments in which they are. In the middle of the garden is a reservoir of water surrounded by columns. The cellars extended under the whole of the house and the arcades. A French author describes a Roman villa as a dwelling house and gardens arranged on two or three parallel esplanades in form of steps, sustained by strong substructions. On the highest terrace the prï¾µtorium was erected, which was the principal pavilion or body of the house, divided into summer and winter apartments, containing bed-rooms, eating-hall, baths, and covered walks. The rustic buildings of the farm were distributed upon the sides of the lower terraces, or at the end of the gardens. When such a villa was placed upon the slope of a hill, it had only one front, and one exposure; but such as were elevated on the top of rising ground possessed varied views. The esplanades or terraces were, on such sites, carried round, forming parallelograms one above another. The main body of the building was flanked by two towers, or often overlooked by a square one, in which was an apartment for the guests to sup in, and to enjoy the prospect. (G. L. Meason.)