Peristyle garden, House of the Vettii, Pompeii. reconstruction. Wikimedia commons.

Annette Giesecke will present “From Paradise to Pompeii: Near Eastern origins of the ancient Roman garden” at Hamilton Gardens, at 6 – 7:30 pm on the 27th April (Piwakawaka Room).

$5 door charge and raffle.


Mention of ancient Roman gardens conjures images of lavish suburban estates outfitted with sprawling gardens containing specimen plantings from around the world, aviaries and fishponds, pergolas for outdoor dining, and sculpture-lined swimming pools such as those described by statesman Pliny the Younger in his letters or evidenced by the remains of the emperor Hadrian’s villa at Tivoli. Such gardens would influence Byzantine, Islamic, and monastic gardens as well as gardens of Renaissance Europe; they would resonate in gardens from the seventeenth century onwards, their underlying presence felt to the present day. But the Roman world had not always been a garden showcase.

This lushly illustrated lecture traces the origins of the Roman domestic garden ‘movement’ from the mid second century BCE, when conquests in the Near East—the former Persian Empire including Egypt—exposed Romans to garden traditions already thousands of years old. On the model of Near Eastern kings and potentates with their ‘paradise’ gardens, wealthy Romans created gardens that were Roman empires in miniature, gathering in the monuments of the larger world in replica. Romans of lesser means soon followed suit, replacing kitchen gardens with paradises situated at the very heart of their homes.


Annette Giesecke is a specialist in the history and meaning of ancient Mediterranean gardens. Her work extends to the many cultural uses of plants in antiquity, including symbolic, religious, culinary, medicinal, ornamental, and technological. Her books include A Cultural History of PlantsClassical Mythology A to ZThe Mythology of Plants, The Good Gardener? Nature, Humanity, and the Garden, and Earth Perfect? Nature, Utopia, and the Garden.

Annette is currently affiliated with the Centre for Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington and serves as a Trustee of the Garden History Research Foundation.

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