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Roman Gardens, Imagination, and Cognitive Structure

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image of Mnemosyne

The article deals with the Roman garden and sets it in the context of identity, imagination, and cognitive development. Although the implications of the argument are empire-wide, the focus here is primarily on the urban gardens of the city of Rome ca. 60 b.c.-a.d. 60.The person experiencing one garden sees through it other gardens, real, historical, or poetic. ‘The garden’ and representations of the garden become places for thinking about literature, history, and identity. Our evidence for this ‘thinking’ is a lateral or synchronic layer in the sense that the thinking for which we have textual evidence is all done by fully developed adults. However, there is another, vertical or diachronic, aspect to the process which involves the cognitive development from childhood of the garden-user and the role of the garden in structuring the prospective citizen’s understanding of the world. The garden is a central feature of the urban residence, where the Roman citizen lives and moves through the course of his cognitive development. It is inside the house, and the house is inside the city, which is inside Italy. The concluding part of the article investigates how the core notion of the garden as enclosed space maps on to larger sets of inside-outside dyads in the Roman world: the garden is a secluded interior, but on a larger scale Rome is a safe interior surrounded by more perilous environment; again, Italy is a civilised interior surrounded by a more dangerous outer world. The garden is experienced by the child largely through play, and this also feeds into the garden-related imaginative acts described in the first part of the paper.1

Affiliations: 1: University of LiverpoolSchool of Archaeology, Classics, and Egyptology12-14 Abercromby Square, Liverpool, L69 7WZfjones@liv.ac.uk

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2014-08-19
2017-10-19

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