Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Secret Gardens

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Pompeii, a city obliterated and simultaneously preserved by mount Vesuvius's volcanic ash in the cataclysmic eruption of 79 A.D., was once a model Roman city. On the way home from a weekend trip to Sorrento, five classmates and I hopped off the train and took a journey through time to explore the eerie remnants.

There is still evidence of traditional Roman gardens within the ruins of Pompeii. While the remaining gardens could not possibly compare to those in the heyday of Pompeii, the structures give one an idea of what they might have been like. 

It was during Roman times that much advancement was made in ornamental horticulture. Traditional Roman gardens were often enclosed within the walls of the home, as public gardens did not conceptualize until more recently in history. They were meant to be a sort of refuge, or escape from the urban life that existed just outside of the home's walls. The walls surrounding the garden were often painted with frescos and lined with a covered patio held up by columns. One or more focal points such as statues or fountains were placed carefully throughout the garden. 

Within the many acres of ruins, there exist several homes that are still mostly intact. Evidence reveals that even lower classes of people with smaller homes had gardens. The gardens were adjusted in size to meet the space constraints of the home. In these homes, the gardens are clearly visible and have been somewhat restored to what they would have looked like in the past. However, we learned in class that the plants used in these restorations are not necessarily native or period appropriate. 

I think of Pompeii's gardens as being sort of 'secret gardens.' From the outside, a person would never know that a garden oasis existed just beyond the walls of the house. Additionally, they are secret in that we will never know exactly what the various gardens looked like in the past. We can only imagine based on the remaining clues what Pompeii might have been like in Ancient times. 

Exploring the ruins

Rose in one of the restored home gardens

Wildflowers on the outskirts of Pompeii
Pompeii sits in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius

Ancient table remains standing, shown through a hole in the wall of a home

Poppies overgrown on the steps of the stadium

Pompeii was quite an interesting place to visit. While I am left with more questions than before I came, some of Pompeii's mysteries will simply never be solved.

Ciao from Italia!


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