Wednesday, June 17, 2015

We Wish It Were Wine

The entrance to the Baths of Diocletian is a garden that contains the massive vase in the picture. The museum that operates the Baths of Diocletian calls this feature the “Colossal Krater.” Kraters were large vases that were used to mix water and wine in ancient Greece. The Romans adopted this dish, using it to dilute their highly concentrated wine. The pictured krater, sadly, was created for use as a fountain instead of as a mixing vessel. The krater was made in the Imperial Period, which is defined by archeologists as A.D. 1 to A.D. 375. The krater is still a functional fountain today. Water overflows from spouts in the krater’s rim and falls into the pool below.
The krater is the centerpiece of the garden that serves as the entrance to the Baths of Diocletian. Four footpaths emanate from the krater at right angles. This formal symmetry is one of the typical elements of Italian gardens that we discussed at the Boboli gardens. The garden that housed the krater is flat instead of hilly. Therefore, it does not exhibit the second element common to Italian gardens: elevation changes. The third characteristic element of Italian gardens is the use of a lot of evergreen plants and the relative absence of bright colors in the vegetation.


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