HORTICULTURE IN ANTIQUITY, WITH EMPHASIS ON THE GRAECO-ROMAN ERA

L. Cilliers, F.P. Retief

Abstract


The evolution of horticulture (gardening) in antiquity, as distinct from largescale agriculture and forestry, is traced from its humble origins in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, to the Graeco-Roman era. Little is known about horticulture in the Greek Bronze Age and Homeric period, but from the 5th century onwards, public rather than private gardens became popular. In Athens a market garden was planted on the agora, and public parks (containing trees without flowers or decorative shrubs) like the Academy and Lyceum, appeared on the outskirts of the cities. Orchards and vegetable gardens were usually placed outside city walls and domestic gardening in and around homes were virtually unknown. The Greeks used wild flowers rather than cultivated flowers. Graveyards were planted with trees, and sacred groves, often in idyllic settings, were associated with shrines and divinity. During the Hellenistic era, exotic gardens based on the Persian paradeisos, were introduced by the affluent. The Romans made extensive use of private and domestic horticulture. In their homes (domus) built on the Greek model, the peristyle in particular, was converted into a garden containing trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. Further walled gardens were often attached to the domus. In large cities where the majority of citizens lived in multi-storied apartments (cenaculae), domestic gardening was restricted to occasional climbing plants and potted flowers decorating pillars, balconies and window sills. Wealthy Romans erected villas on country estates where indoor gardens and outside horticultural projects often included large orchards, gardens and vegetables shrubs and flowers, as well as tree-lined walking lanes, shrines, statues and water features. Facilities for horse riding were common, as well as pleasure gardens on the paradeisos model.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/54-0-23

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ISSN 2079-2883 (online); ISSN 0303-1896 (print)

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