Department of Classics

Rabun Taylor, University of Texas at Austin: "Between Rome and Babylon: West and East in the Palace Gardins of Herod the Great"

Mon, March 24, 2014 | CLA 1.302D

2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Herod the Great, an Idumaean who adopted the customs of his Judaean subjects, also kept one foot firmly planted in the cultural avant-garde of the Hellenized Roman elite whom he served as client king and occasional companion.  His allegiance to his Roman allies is plainly evident in the designs of his palace-villas at Jericho, Caesarea, Jerusalem, and Herodeion, though all of these places also drew from native, Egyptian, and Near Eastern traditions too.  Formal and symbolic parallels to Herod’s architectural manipulation of garden landscapes can be found in Roman villas and gardens, Baiae, and other sites.  This paper explores the ways in which Herod’s palace gardens with their groves, pools, streams, peristyles, pavilions, and views—and, in the case of Herodium, even a royal tomb site—consciously evoked both Roman and distinctly regional prototypes.  It explores the possibility that Herod was directly inspired by the gardens and villas of his associates in Rome, Agrippa and Messalla, while adopting the Roman tendency to epitomize famous sites in miniature within grand domestic settings.  The sites identified here, however, have specifically regional meaning:  the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which Herod quoted, in a distinctly Latin accent, in the planted “theater” at his third winter palace at Jericho; and Tyros, the garden-palace of Hyrcanus the Tobiad in the Transjordan, which may have influenced the design of the Pool Complex at Herodeion.  During this period of architectural ferment, ideas traveled westward, too; and the possibility is explored that the Naumachia of Augustus at Rome, with its island memorial and encompassing garden, took these cues from Herod’s world.

Sponsored by: Department of Anthropology

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