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Image: Garden scene Pompeii, House of the Golden Bracelet

Image: Garden with colonnade (peristyle)Garden with colonnade (peristyle)

The seaside villas had interior gardens planted within colonnaded courtyards and terraced gardens leading down to the bay. In Pompeii gardens were generally located at the back of dwellings, but residents with the means also had interior gardens located at the core of their houses. In both villas and towns, gardens were accented with fountains, carved reliefs, statues, and figurines that spurted water into pools and watercourses. Water features became especially popular after Octavian (the future emperor Augustus) had an aqueduct built that brought an uninterrupted supply of pressurized running water to the region in the late first century BC.

The sculptural ensemble of a boar attacked by dogs was found in 1858 in a Pompeian house, where it once adorned the semicircular edge of a pool in the central garden. Such works suggest the wilder side of nature while safely containing it for the owners' pleasure.

Image: Garden Image with Circled Click-able Regions

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Click on a bird to hear its song.

Garden scene
Pompeii, House of the Golden Bracelet
1st century BC – 1st century AD
Ufficio Scavi, Pompei

This fresco formed one of three walls in a living room in the House of the Golden Bracelet in Pompeii. Facing an actual garden with a fountain, pool, and pergola, the room created the illusion of a larger garden area with an eternally bright blue sky, flowers in perpetual bloom, and the continual presence of birds.

The birds and plants depicted in this fresco are characteristic of ancient Roman gardens and often carried symbolic associations. Many of the plants could also be used medicinally, a subject covered by first-century AD author Pliny the Elder in his Natural History. The sculptures seen in the fresco were typical features of Roman gardens as well and carried their own mythic and theatrical connotations.

Bird songs courtesy of Alberto Masi.

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