previous next


Having made mention of these productions, it now remains for us to return to the cultivation of the garden,1 a subject recommended by its own intrinsic merits to our notice: for we find that in remote antiquity, even, there was nothing looked upon with a greater degree of admiration than the gardens of the Hesperides,2 those of the kings Adonis3 and Alci- noüs,4 and the Hanging Gardens, whether they were the work of Semiramis, or whether of Cyrus, king of Assyria, a subject of which we shall have to speak in another work.5 The kings of Rome cultivated their gardens with their own hands; indeed, it was from his garden that Tarquinius Superbus6 sent to his son that cruel and sanguinary message of his. In our laws of the Twelve Tables, we find the word "villa," or "farm," nowhere mentioned; it is the word "hortus" that is always used with that signification, while the term "heredium" we find employed for "garden."

There are certain religious impressions, too, that have been attached to this species of property,7 and we find that it is in the garden and the Forum only that statues of satyrs are con- secrated, as a protection against the evil effects8 of spells and sorcery; although in Plautus, we find the gardens spoken of as being under the tutelage of Venus. At the present day, under the general name of gardens,9 we have pleasure-grounds situate in the very heart of the City, as well as extensive fields and villas.

Epicurus, that connoisseur10 in the enjoyments of a life of ease, was the first to lay out a garden at Athens;11 up to his time it had never been thought of, to dwell in the country in the middle of the town. At Rome, on the other hand, the garden12 constituted of itself the poor man's field, and it was from the garden that the lower classes procured their daily food—an aliment how guiltlessly obtained! But still, it is a great deal better, no doubt,13 to dive into the abysses of the deep, and to seek each kind of oyster at the risk and peril of shipwreck, to go searching for birds beyond the river Phasis14 even, which, protected as they are by the terrors invented by fable,15 are only rendered all the more precious thereby—to go searching for others, again, in Numidia,16 and the very sepulchres of Æthiopia,17 or else to be battling with wild beasts, and to get eaten one's self while trying to take a prey which another person is to eat! And yet, by Hercules! how little do the productions of the garden cost us in comparison with these! How more than sufficient for every wish and for every want!— were it not, indeed, that here, as in every thing else, turn which way we will, we find the same grounds for our wrath and in- dignation. We really might be content to allow of fruits being grown of the most exquisite quality, remarkable, some of them for their flavour, some for their size, some, again, for the monstrosities of their growth, morsels all of them forbidden to the poor!18 We might allow of wines being kept till they are mellowed with age, or enfeebled by being passed through19 cloth strainers, of men, too, however prolonged their lives, never drinking any but a wine that is still older than themselves! We might allow of luxury devising how best to extract the very aroma, as it were, and marrow20 only from grain; of people, too, living upon nothing but the choicest productions of the confectioner, and upon pastes fashioned in fantastic shapes: of one kind of bread being prepared for the rich, and another for the multitude; of the yearly produce of the field being classified in a descending scale, till it reaches the humble means of the very lowest classes—but do we not find that these refined distinctions have been extended to the very herbs even, and that riches have contrived to establish points of dissimilarity in articles of food which ordinarily sell for a single copper coin?21

In this department even, humble as it is, we are still des- tined to find certain productions that are denied to the community at large, and the very cabbages pampered to such an enormous extent that the poor man's table is not large enough to hold them. Asparagus, by Nature, was intended to grow wild,22 so that each might gather it where he pleased—but, lo and behold! we find it in the highest state of cultivation, and Ravenna produces heads that weigh as much as three pounds23 even! Alas for the monstrous excess of gluttony! It would be surprising indeed, for the beasts of the field to be forbidden the thistle for food, and yet it is a thing forbidden24 to the lower classes of the community! These refined distinctions, too, are extended to the very water even, and, thanks to the mighty influence of money, there are lines of demarcation drawn in the very elements themselves. Some persons are for drinking ice, others for quaffing snow, and thus is the curse of the mountain steep turned into an appetizing stimulus for the palate!25 Cold is carefully treasured up for the summer heats, and man's invention is racked how best to keep snow freezing in months that are not its own. Some again there are who first boil the water,26 and then bring it to the temperature of winter—indeed, there is nothing that pleases man in the fashion in which Nature originally made it.

And is it the fact, then, that any herb of the garden is reared only for the rich man's table? It is so—but still let no one of the angered populace think of a fresh secession to Mount Sacer or Mount Aventine; for to a certainty, in the long run, all-powerful money will bring them back to just the same position as they were in when it wrought the severance. For, by Hercules!27 there was not an impost levied at Rome more grievous than the market-dues, an impost that aroused the indignation of the populace, who repeatedly appealed with loud clamours to all the chief men of the state to be relieved from it. At last they were relieved from this heavy tax upon their wares; and then it was found that there was no tax more lucrative, more readily collected, or less obnoxious to the caprices of chance, than the impost that was levied in exchange for it, in the shape of a property-tax, extended to the poorest classes: for now the very soil itself is their surety that paid the tax will be, their means are patent to the light of day, and the superficial extent of their possessions, whatever the weather may chance to be, always remains the same.

Cato,28 we find, speaks in high praise of garden cabbages:— indeed, it was according to their respective methods of garden cultivation that the agriculturists of early times were appreciated, and it was immediately concluded that it was a sign of a woman being a bad and careless manager of her family, when the kitchen-garden—for this was looked upon as the woman's department more particularly—was negligently cultivated; as in such case her only resource was, of course, the shambles or the herb-market. But cabbages were not held in such high esteem in those days as now: indeed, all dishes were held in disrepute which required something else to help them down, the great object being to economize oil as much as possible; and as to the flesh-market, so much as a wish even to taste its wares was visited with censure and reproach. The chief thing that made them so fond of the garden was the fact that its produce needs no fire and ensures economy in fuel, and that it offers resources which are always ready and at hand. These articles of food, which from their peculiar nature we call "vinegar-diets,"29 were found to be easy of digestion, by no means apt to blunt and overload the senses, and to create but little craving for bread as an accompaniment. A portion of them which is still used by us for seasonings, attests that our forefathers used only to look at home for their resources, and that no Indian peppers were in request with them, or any of those other condi- ments which we are in the habit of seeking beyond the seas. In former times the lower classes of Rome, with their mimic gardens in their windows, day after day presented the reflex of the country to the eye, when as yet the multitudes of atrocious burglaries, almost innumerable, had not compelled us to shut out all such sights with bars to the passers by.

Let the garden, then, have its due meed of honour, and let not things, because they are common, enjoy for that the less share of our consideration—and the more so, as we find that from it men of the very highest rank have been content to borrow their surnames even; thus in the Valerian family, for instance, the Lactucini have not thought themselves disgraced by taking their name from the lettuce. Perhaps, too, our labours and research may contribute some slight recommendation to this our subject; although, with Virgil,30 we are ready to admit how difficult it is, by language however elevated, to ennoble a subject that is so humble in itself.

1 As Fée observes, by the word "hortus" the Romans understood solely the "vegetable" or "kitchen-garden;" the pleasure garden being generally denominated "horti."

2 See B. v. c. 1.

3 A fabulous king of Phœnicia, probably, whose story was afterwards transferred, with considerable embellishments, to the Grecian mythology. Adonis is supposed to have been identical with the Thammuz of Scripture, mentioned by Ezekiel, viii. 14, where he speaks of the "women weep- ing for Thammuz." Hardouin considers him to have been a Syrian deity, identical with the Moon.

4 Celebrated by Homer, Old. B. vi. and xiii.

5 "Alio volumine." As no further mention is made by Pliny of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, it is most probable that he contemplated giving a description of them in another work, an intention which he did not live to realize.

6 See further on this subject, c. 53 of the present Book.

7 The reading, "quam rem," seems preferable to "quam ob rem," adopted by Sillig.

8 "Effascinationes." The effects of the evil eye.

9 "Hortorum." "Pleasure-gardens."

10 "Otii magister."

11 For the purpose of teaching philosophy there.

12 "Hortus." The "kitchen-garden."

13 Ironically said.

14 He alludes to the pheasant. See B. x. c. 67.

15 He alludes to Colchis, the country of Medea, the scene of the ex- ploits of Jason and the Argonauts and the land of prodigies and fable.

16 See B. x. cc. 38 and 67. He alludes to "meleagrides," or Guinea-fowls.

17 See B. x. c. 37. He alludes to the birds called "Memnonides."

18 See B. xvii. c. l.

19 See B. xiv. c. 28.

20 He alludes to the finest and most delicate kinds of wheaten flour. See B. xviii. c. 29.

21 "Uno asse."

22 As "corruda," or "wild asparagus." The Brassica capitata alba of C. Bauhin, or white cabbage, sometimes attains a weight of ten or twelve pounds.

23 This is an exaggeration, probably.

24 He alludes to tie artichoke, or Cinara cardunculus of the botanists which bears some resemblance to the common thistle.

25 Martial and Aulus Gellius speak of ice and snow drinks. The latter must have been very injurious to the stomach.

26 See B. xxxi. c. 23.

27 In this corrupt and otherwise unintelligible pasaage, we have adopted the proposed emendations of Sillig, who is of opinion that it bears reference to the abolition of the market-dues, or "portorium," by Augustus Cæsar, and the substitution of a property tax of one twentieth of the land, a method of taxation which inflicted greater hardships than the former one, as it was assessed according to the superficies, not the produce of the land. His proposed emendations of the text are as follows:"mox enim certe æquabit eos pecunia quos pecunia separaverit. Itaque——ac minore fortunæ jure, quam cum hereditate datur pensio ea pauperum; his in solo sponsor est," &c.

28 De Re Rust. cc. 156, 157. He speaks of it as being eaten either boiled or raw, but in the latter case with vinegar. Fée thinks that even then it would make a very acrid and indigestible diet.

29 "Acetaria." Salads.

30 He alludes, no doubt, to the words of Virgil, in Georg. iv. l. 6.
"In tenui labor, at tenuis non gloria——"
though in that instance the poet is speaking of bees.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

load focus Latin (Karl Friedrich Theodor Mayhoff, 1906)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

hide References (7 total)
  • Cross-references in general dictionaries to this page (6):
  • Cross-references in text-specific dictionaries to this page (1):
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: