Article cover image

Gardens of Ephesus


Tour Guide, Istanbul, Turkey

| 2 mins read

On my private ephesus tours, My guest particularly on Terrace Houses Tour , they ask me about the vegetation, and gardening around this beautiful Ancient city. So here is some documented information on Roman Gardens.

In Nero's reign, the magnitude and the architecture of gardens developed greatly, just like the construction and urbanisation of the city itself.

In imitation of Hellenistic rulers, Nero used a language of wealth and luxury to impress the people and justify his absolute power. This was expressed particularly in his gardens, which created an aura of natural spirituality to complement the grandeur of the architecture. 

Suetonius' famous description (Nero 31) of the Domus Aurea and its gardens which occupied a large part of the city could equally have been applied to Nero's first residence on the Palatine, the Domus Transitoria. The Latin author's description applied particularly to the buildings on the Palatine. 

The rich structures revetted with coloured marbles and fine painted decorations, visible beneath the Domus Flavia, belong to Nero's Domus Transitoria and mostly pertain to open aread associated with gardens, basins and water features.

Thus, in archaic Ephesus, a 'garden' was a green space cuitivated with plants that were of practical value to the household economy.

These included trees whose fruits could easily be preserved because they had hard shells, like walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, or because they could be dried, like figs, pears and apples; vegetables, particularly members of the cabbage family; and plants that were useful for the varied needs of daily life. 

Some of these plants were medicinal in nature, like mallow, poppy, camomile, sage and rosemary (to name just the most common ones). Others, like myrtle and laurel, could be used to weave garlands for rituals and religious ceremonies.

According to Pliny (Natural History 12.13) it was Gaius Martius Augustur' friend, who invented 'the art of trimming shrubbery into various shapes'. Thus the ars topiaria took a final step forward, this time using pruning to make different shapes 'to adorn gardens: scenes of hunting, naval flotillas and other figures.' As well as cypress (ibid.,16.139), myrtle, box, 'Jupiter's beard' (Anthyllis barba-jovis:ibid., 16.76), the 'laurel of Thasos' (Ruscus aculeatus, butcher's broom:ibid., 15,130).