GRE announces beta launch

Gardens of the Roman Empire announces the beta launch of its new site

Gardens of the Roman Empire (GRE) launched the beta version of its website on April 21, 2020.

GRE is the first complete and authoritative online scholarly corpus of all the gardens attested in the Roman Empire. Today’s launch included over a hundred gardens from seven representative provinces or regions of the Roman Empire (ca. 2nd cent. BCE to the 4th cent. CE). Over the next year the international editorial team plans on publishing hundreds of additional gardens from across the Mediterranean world, ultimately representing over 1,000 gardens of all kinds attested in literature, epigraphically, and archaeologically across a millennium of culture in Europe, North Africa and western Asia.

GRE aims to bring knowledge of Roman garden archaeology out of local archaeological journals and print books into a free open access resource in a consistent format that provides scholars, students, and professionals global access to evidence of all types for ancient garden culture. The entries range from sites that have been excavated using contemporary techniques to early sites where gardens are suspected but not yet proven. The range of evidence assembled includes up-to-date descriptions, plans, stratigraphic sections, bibliography, and photographs of gardens known archaeologically.

For the beta launch of this project, GRE is mostly publishing the entries assembled by Wilhelmina Jashemski, Kathryn Gleason, Kim J. Hartswick, Amina-Aïcha Malek, and a team of area editors working between 1988-2010. While the work of publishing these assembled gardens will continue over the course of 2021-2022, the new website has also been engineered in such a way as to allow the GRE team and its contributors to update older entries with new information and bibliography and to add new gardens as they are discovered.

In the next phase of development, GRE is planning to add a glossary and thematic entries on topics such as garden representations, inscriptions, archaeobotanical findings, and water features. In assembling all the known garden evidence into a single online corpus, GRE seeks to expand the scope of research on Roman gardens, as well as to stimulate further field research.

The data structure and website was designed by the Library of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, in consultation with Sebastian Heath, who suggested the basic strategy. Christian Casey, the CLIR postdoctoral fellow in the ISAW Library, elaborated and realized this strategic approach with significant contributions and a GIS map of the garden sites by Keith Jenkins of the Cornell University Library. Substantial support over the years was also provided by: Cornell University, Archéologie & Philologie d’Orient et d’Occident, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, the Cambridge University Press, and Dumbarton Oaks.

GRE is a hugo site which generates static markdown pages for each “garden,” a data object created by GRE and described by a number of essential attributes or metadata fields. Thus, each garden has a title, a geographic location, a description, images and plans (if available), bibliography, etc. The ultimate aim is to have every identified garden of the Roman Empire represented by a unique markdown record with a stable URL. As such, GRE was intentionally designed not as a true database. This places limits on sophisticated searching, but confers substantial advantages from the perspective of sustainability and lowers technical barriers for contributors and editors, whose main interest and expertise lies in archaeology, classics, and garden architecture and history. Finally, GRE adopted a linked open data strategy to its architecture and metadata, linking to open online controlled vocabularies, resources, and databases like Pleiades, the Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, WorldCat, Perseus, and ORCID, both to make some of its underlying data more robust and its own entries more useful to other projects and scholars. The content of GRE is published under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license.

GRE invites all scholars and the general public to explore the new beta site and provide us with constructive feedback as to how we may improve the site over the next year. New editorial teams are currently reaching out to archaeologists and scholars to solicit new information and newly discovered or described gardens.

For information or questions about GRE, or to explore becoming a contributor or editor, please email Dr. Kathryn Gleason:



  • status update

Publication update

April 21, 2021