beginnings of horticulture in the lands of ancient Greece are dated back
to X-VIII BC. The Odyssey’s depiction of the gardens of Alkinoi, the Phoenician
czar, is considered the oldest report from that epoch:
the hall, and close upon the gate,
goodly orchard-ground was situate,
near ten acres; about which was led
lofty quickset. In it flourished 155
and broad fruit trees, that pomegranates bore,
figs, pears, olives; and a number more
useful plants did there produce their store,
fruits the hardest winter could not kill,
hottest summer wither. There was still 160
in his proper season all the year.
Zephyr breathed upon them blasts that were
varied tempers. These he made to bear
fruits, these blossoms. Pear grew after pear,
succeeded apple, grape the grape, 165
after fig came; time made never rape
any dainty there. A spritely vine
here his root, whose fruit a hot sunshine
ripe betimes; here grew another green.
some were gathering, here some pressing seen.
A large-allotted several each fruit had;
all th' adorn'd grounds their appearance made
flower and fruit, at which the king did aim
the precisest order he could claim.
fountains graced the garden; of which, one 175
out a winding stream that over-run
grounds for their use chiefly, th' other went
by the lofty palace gate, and lent
city his sweet benefit."
copyright © Bartleby.com
George, trans. (1559?–1634). The Odysseys of Homer, vol. 1. 1857.
Alkinoi’s garden was something like a huge farm with fences and consisted
of three parts: a vineyard, an orchard and a vegetable garden. Fountains
provided water for irrigation purposes.
contrast, Calypso’s garden in the Ionian Sea was a garden for pleasures,
as befitted the nymphs. There were also “sacred woods of black poplars”.
Sanctuaries of the nymphs were erected in special places in the gardens.
fact, ancient gardens were dotted with most various kinds of sanctuaries.
Greek gardens and parks were numerous but small. People constructed pools
with a mosaic bottom in the inner house yards. Flowers (and in some cases
– shrubs) and containers formed tiny “islands” of living nature in the
house area. Gardens were often built near temples, public places and, particularly,
the so-called gymnasions.
gymnasions were actually the first public parks which served as sites for
sports and philosophic debates. They appeared in the 5th century BC. The
most famous gymnasion (the Academy), in which Plato used to teach, was
created in the sacred wood of the hero Hecademos where its name comes from.
The Academy in Athens turned into a model school for educating youngsters.
According to Kimon, the garden was richly besprinkled and the shades of
the trees lined the paths for walk and ride.
another part of Athens, near the Marathon road, stretched a large park
called Lyceum, after the name of a neighboring temple of Apollo Lyceum.
Aristotle taught there. So, two of the most distinguished philosophic schools
of the antiquity – those of Plato and Aristotle – originated and evolved
in the gardens of the gymnasions.
to Vitruvius, the gymnasion represented a vast, luxuriantly green complex,
adorned with temples, sanctuaries, sculptures, fountains, caves, arbors,
tombs and sport facilities, including swimming pools. Therefore, the gymnasions
were the first public gardens meant for recreation and sports. Their occurrence
resulted from the social development and is not associated with religious
cults. They were usually situated outside the cities because open areas
(in contrast to built-up ones) were hard to find midst in the town. Eminent
citizens were sometimes buried in these parks.
significance of the public parks fell during the Hellenic period at the
expense of private gardens, which were constructed near the villas of the
ruling class for entertainment purposes. Another characteristic of that
period is the gradual decrease of the socially educational functions of
the public gardens from the classical period: the newly built public parks
were designed for delights above all.