The provision of temple precincts with groves and gardens was fairly common practice in the Roman world, however these sacred gardens rarely have been investigated archaeologically, even in Pompeii. To remedy this situation the University of Sheffield carried out research from 1998 to the present at the temple of Venus to retrieve evidence for the date and layout of the city’s principal Roman sanctuary and its landscape planting.
Our investigations have contributed significantly to an understanding of the use of urban space in Pompeii and the role of the sacred grove in cult practice. Clear evidence was retrieved for the landscaping of the earliest Roman sanctuary in the 1st century B.C., around the middle of that century at the latest, allowing us to identify this as one of the oldest known temple gardens in the Roman empire. The sacred grove of Venus was an ‘architectural’ garden in which alternating types of trees and bushes were planted on three sides of the courtyard in rows of terracotta containers along the portico columns, the trees almost certainly echoing the rhythms of the columns and visually highlighting the temple as one approached from the south. The plantings at the temple constituted what Latin texts refer to as a nemus , a grove created or manipulated by man and furnished with sacred buildings and images.
In the Augustan period the temple and its porticoes were refurbished, and for some reason the temple garden was abandoned and the courtyard paved with mortar. Even though the sanctuary thereafter had no garden, the votive monuments and water features we excavated indicate that the courtyard remained a focus of religious veneration and social activity until the final destruction of the sanctuary in A.D. 79.
- Glynis Jones - University of Sheffield
- Oliver Jessop - University of Sheffield
- Giuseppe Montana - Dipartimento di Chimica e Fisica della Terra ed Applicazioni alle Georisorse e ai Rischi Naturali (C.F.T.A), Università di Palermo
- Maureen Carroll - University of Sheffield
- Sarah Viner - University of Sheffield
- Myles McCallum - Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS, Canada
- Robyn Veal - University of Sydney
- Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust
- The British Academy
- University of Sheffield
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