Ancient Roman Gardens

Lovers of flowers, trees and other greenery would probably have loved to roam the ancient gardens in Rome to catch a glimpse at the historical influences in gardening that the city contributed. In this article, you will encounter a few gardens that set the standards in planting and cultivating, including one located at an ancient patrician villa on the edge of Rome.

Gardens of Lucullus

Located on the edge of Rome, the Gardens of Lucullus decorated the grounds of an ancient patrician villa on the Pincian Hill. The design for the gardens was the handiwork of Lucius Licinus Lucullus, who planted the seeds around 60 BCE. Today, the Villa Borghese gardens cover 17 acres of the land, which is found in the center of Rome ”“ right above the Spanish Steps.

The renowned Gardens of Lucullus are considered the most influential in the history of gardening, which showcased a Persian flair. Lucullus knew the ins and outs of the Persian gardening style, as he worked in the satraps’ gardens of Anatolia, as well as in Mesopotamia and Persia. He was the first Roman noted to bring an army over Taurus ”“ passing the Tigris, and then takes over the royal palaces of Asia. He was quite the successful leader, making his way to many different parts of the European and Asian region.

The history of the gardens includes the delight that Claudius’ Empress Messalina had when she was there. She actually forced the previous owner to commit suicide. Ironically, the gardens would become the location of her own death ”“ at the request of her husband, Emperor Claudius. It also has a religious connection. During the 16th century, the gardens become the property of Felice della Rovers, who was the daughter of Pope Julius II.

Gardens of Maecenas

Constructed by Gaius Maecenas (a patron of the arts during the Augustan era), the Gardens of Maecenas were the first of its kind to showcase the Hellenistic-Persian style of gardening in Rome. The exact location of the gardens is a bit hazy because of varying ancient literature accounts.The gardens were created on the Esquiline Hill, which topped the Servian Wall. They were in close proximity to the gardens of Lamia.

Maecenas is believed to have achieved a first in garden construction by building a swimming bath of hot water in Rome. This feature may have been found in the gardens. Inside the gardens, there were terraces, libraries and other indications of Roman culture. It is also likely that the Auditorium of Maecenas was also located in the gardens.

After Maecenas died, the gardens became property to the royals, and after Tiberius returned to Rome in 2 AD, he chose to live there. Nero later connected the gardens with the Palatine Hill.

Gardens of Sallust

In the 1st century BC, the Roman historian Sallust cultivated his own gardens in the northwestern sector of the city. Covering a large area, the gardens were gorgeously landscaped and served as home to many works of art and other impressive structures. Many pavilions decorated the grounds, as well as a temple dedicated to Venus. Some of the art found in the gardens included the Borghese Vase (uncovered in the 16th century) and the Ludovisi Throne (found in 1887).