This article examines the environmental, practical, and socio-economic aspects of rural life in Late Antiquity. It focuses on the period between the accession of Diocletian in the late third century and the establishment of the Rashidun Caliphate on the eastern fringes of the Roman world in the first half of the seventh century. The discussion springs from two seemingly contradictory assumptions. The first is that the rural landscapes of the late Roman world were almost infinitely diverse in terms of physical topography, economic structures, and social systems. The second is that peasant communities exhibit certain behaviors that are broadly congruent and comparable across time and space.
Victoria E. Pagán
In the Roman world, horticulture (the art and practice of garden cultivation and management) is one aspect of the larger enterprise of farming and agriculture. Hortus denotes a kitchen garden near the house for growing vegetables; horti are large-scale pleasure grounds or parks, privately owned but sometimes open to public use. The literary and material sources from the second century b.c.e. to the second century c.e. in the regions of Latium and Campania adhere to and diverge from generic conventions, distort and exaggerate their subject, and provide social commentary on the purposes and meanings of gardens. After surveying the sources, the second section of this article reviews scholarship on gardens: archaeological studies that ask what gardens are, and cultural studies that ask what gardens mean. The conclusion suggests two future directions: reception studies and environmental sustainability.