Abstract: From Homer to Horace: How to Excavate an Imaginary Garden

Advances in garden archaeology of the last twenty years have brought us a new wealth of evidence on Roman landscaping and horticulture. Yet gardens are gardens are conceptual as well as physical spaces. Gardens are ideas, as much as they are places and understanding how gardens worked within the cultural matrix of the Roman world requires an understanding of their pull on both ancient and modern imagination. This paper focuses on three ancient Mediterranean gardens that have long occupied prime real estate in Western Europe’s cultural imagination: Homer’s garden of Alcinous from the Odyssey, Vergil’s Corycian garden from the Georgics and Horace’s Sabine villa. How did preconceived notions about these gardens affect the development of garden archaeology? How have archaeological discoveries promoted a re-evaluation of real, imagined and reproduction Roman gardens? And how do Roman gardens persist in modern imagination?


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

Cook, E. (2004) ‘Near Eastern Sources for the Palace of Alkinoos’, in AJA 108, 43-77.

Dixon Hunt, J. (2001) ‘Some reflections on the idea of Horace’s farm’, in B. D. Frischer and Frischer, and I. G. Brown, (eds) (2001) Allan Ramsay and the Search for Horace’s Villa, Aldershot: Ashgate, 27-36.

Klynne, A. and Liljenstolpe, P. (2000) ‘Investigating the gardens of the Villa of Livia’, in JRA 13, 220‑233.

Miller, N. F. and Gleason, K. L. (eds) (1994) The Archaeology of Garden and Field, Philadelphia.

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