Garden of Epicurus

Province

Achaea

Province Description

Roman intervention in Greek political affairs resulted in conflicts that led to the destruction of Corinth in 146 B.C. and the sacking of Athens in 86 B.C. It was not until 27 B.C., however, that Augustus formally organized the Roman province of Achaea. Achaea consisted of the cities and territories of the southern Greek mainland between the Peloponnese and Thessaly, as well as Epirus in the northwest and the Ionian and some of the Aegean islands. The provincial capital was Corinth. Under Nero in the mid-1st century A.D. Epirus became a separate province, and in the mid-2nd century Thessaly was detached and added to the province of Macedonia. Under Roman domination many cities such as Athens, Sparta, Patras, and Corinth grew in size and prominence, the latter two partly owing to their importance as ports. After an initial decline in the number of rural sites in the early Empire, by the late Roman period the countryside was densely settled with farms and villas, due to changing landholding patterns and Roman improvements in agricultural and irrigation technology. The main exports from Achaea were wine, particularly from the northern Peloponnese, as well as olive oil and honey, linen and woolen textiles and marbles.

Location

Athens
Athens (Pleiades)

Sublocation

Dipylon Gate

Garden

The Garden of Epicurus

Keywords

Garden Description

In the 4th century B.C., the schools and gardens of the philosophers Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastos and Epicurus were built in the vicinity of the gymnasia in the suburbs of Athens. Like the gymnasia, these schools were held in especially high esteem by members of the wealthy, educated class of Roman society who eagerly absorbed Greek culture and often completed their education in Athens. It is difficult to say in exactly what condition these schools were at this time, but the memory of them in their prime was still vivid. The educational institutions of Athens were maintained until the emperor Justinian decreed that the schools be closed in 529 A.D.

Many dialogues and descriptions of private villas of Roman aristocrats reveal that parts of their estates were landscaped and designed to evoke Greek gymnasia and schools, where, in theory at least, hours could be spent discoursing and philosophizing. Parts of the villas, such as those of Cicero and the emperor Hadrian, were occasionally named ‘Academy’ and “Lykeion” after the gymnasia and schools of Athens.

Cicero set the scene in De finibus (5.1.3) for a group of men in the Academy near the gardens of Epicurus in 79 B.C., and he mentioned the garden of Plato in the same suburb (Fin. 5.1.2). Roman statues of Epicurus and the Epicurean philosopher Colotes found outside the Dipylon gate on the road to the Academy may reflect some rebuilding prompted by Hadrian. Heliodoros (Aethiopica 1.16.5), writing in the 3rd century A.D., mentioned a gathering of men near the garden of Epicurus.

Dates

4th century BCE and later (mentioned in 79 BCE and the 3rd century CE)

Bibliography

  • E. Vanderpool, “The museum and garden of the peripatetics,” Archaiologikē Ephemeris, 1953-1954, pt. 2: 126-28. (worldcat).
  • M. Carroll-Spillecke, “The gardens of Greece from Homeric to Roman times,” Journal of Garden History 12.2, 1992: 91. (worldcat).

Pleiades ID

579885

TGN ID

5004159

Contributor

Maureen Carroll (ORCID: 0000-0001-9958-8032)

Publication date

21 Apr 2021