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Gardens of the Roman World

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Gardens of the Roman World
By Patrick Bowe. (Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum: 2004. Pg. 176. 197 color illustrations. 1 Map.) ISBN: 0-89236-740-7.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - November 11, 2004

Gardens of the Roman World is a magnificent book by Patrick Bowe. Wonderfully illustrated, this book provides a detailed overview of the history of Roman gardens that covers how they were planned, what inspired the Romans when conceptualizing how their gardens should look, the plants used in them, their functionality, and the role they played in Roman society. Bowe also explores how the Roman gardens influenced later gardens, from the Italian Renaissance gardens to modern gardens throughout Europe and the Americas.

For Roman historians and gardeners alike, this book is a must have. It is resplendent with almost 200 color illustrations, and Bowe's narrative is both informative and engaging. The text is organized into four main sections, entitled:
  1. The Roman Garden: An Introduction
    This section provides an in-depth discussion about the Roman Gardens, including their historical background, development over time, function, design, the role of water, garden art and furniture, and plantings. Buildings typically found in a Roman garden are also covered.

  2. From Imperial Palaces to Public Parks: The Roman Gardening World
    This section provides a historical overview of the Roman garden, and it describes the various types of Roman gardens, from grand imperial palace gardens and sacred gardens to public parks and market gardens.

  3. Provincial Gardens: From the Eastern Empire to Britain
    The third section of this book takes the reader away from Italy, and explores the provincial Roman gardens. In this section Bowe looks at both those gardens constructed and used by Roman settlers, as well as those gardens that were influenced by Roman designs. Special attention is given to the gardens found in the Eastern Empire, North Africa, Iberia (Spain and Portugal), and Britain.

  4. The Influence of Roman Gardens: From Byzantium to the Twentieth Century
    Lastly, Bowe looks at how the Roman gardens have influenced subsequent gardens, both directly and indirectly. Particular gardens types detailed include Byzantine and Islamic gardens, as well as gardens commonly found during the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Landscape, Neoclassical, Eclecticism, and 20th century gardens are also covered.

This delightful book concludes with a list of plant commonly grown in Ancient Roman Gardens, as well as a list of suggestions for further reading, including Earthly Paradises - Ancient Gardens in History and Archaeology, by Maureen Carroll.

Related Reviews:

Earthly Paradises - Ancient Gardens in History and Archaeology, By Maureen Carroll.
This work examines the function, significance, and design of ancient gardens from the second millennium B.C. to the middle of the first millennium A.D.

Gardens of Pompeii, by Annamaria Ciarallo.
In this book, Ciarallo details what plants where native to Pompeii, which were introduced, and what each plant was used for, with special attention given to medicinal plants and those used for dyes.

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