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The Sumerian Hunting Parks
According to Chen (54), between 3000BC and 2000BC, the Sumerians established hunting parks for domesticating animal, especially horses. Wild animals were also placed in some parks and the hunting box was later installed in landscape pressure pavilions. The ancient parks have inspired the development of modern parks.
They were used for recreation and pleasure. Gilgamesh, a historic figure in 2500BC, mentions the ‘garden of gods’. A good example was the Ziggurat of UR, an artificial “Hill of Heaven” where Sumerians ancestors were believed to reside. For this reason, the garden was highly respected and protected because rituals were carried out in the shrines within it.
According to Chen (55), the gardens eventually developed into pure pleasure gardens. They were enclosed areas with some plants and animals stocked for royal hunting sports. At this time, the Sumerians called the parks “paradise”, which means “enclosed”.
Later, when the Persian conquered Assyrians and Egypt, they came up with new designs for the gardens. They increased the design to incorporate exceptional forms. These gardens are the forerunners of the modern pleasure gardens. They provide a paradise where they were used for spiritual purposes. In addition, they were used as meeting places for friends and families.
Parks and gardens, being artificial creations, reflect the idealized form of micro-landscape. Their design and characteristics symbolize the ideas that the society sought from such landscapes. Recreation facilities and amenities are installed with time because people increasingly yearn for more pleasure. Today, they form major tourist attraction sites in various parts of the world. Other ancient structures and artifacts have been achieved in museums to provide an important source of historical information for the future generations.
Sacred Groves of Greece
According to Conan (43), the ancient Greek societies used to set aside certain areas and preserved them in their natural environment. Conan (43) states that ‘sacred groves’, which were kept as places for worshiping the ancient Greek gods, are a good example of the special gardens.
In addition, other groves were parks used for recreation by monarchs and citizens. Sections of the groves and the parks existed naturally, which gave a good habitat to planted forests and wild animals. Sacredness meant that the trees within them could not be cut. Dead leaves were supposed to remain intact on the ground. Hunting animals and birds was forbidden. In addition, fishing in the springs, lakes and streams within the parks was restricted to ensure that illegal fishers were kept away.
However, the association with the gods remained intact. In the process of urbanization, the building of temples and planting fruits and trees started including the altered or artificial sacred grooves. In other cases, new groves were planted around the temples. Therefore, these sacred groves did not maintain their initial status.
Therefore, they became leisure parks and gardens instead of sacred. Recreational amenities were installed to provide the society with places for fun such as swimming and boat riding. During the Persian War, the Greeks discovered a hunting park called the “Alexandria Park”, a sacred grove whose mountains were part of the living body of the goddesses.
Conan (67) pointed out that the Lyceum was a public park for meditation and discussions. The gymnasium, which had turfs and trees, was a field located within the environs of the sacred groves and a sanctuary. Centuries after mass cutting of the trees in Greece, only the plants within the sacred shrines remained intact.
Conan (71) also noted that the Jewish kings were buried in some groves as a final sign of status. In the modern times, burials in the sacred gardens are historically considered one of the honors given to the noble people in the ancient times.
The Peristyle Garden
According to Bowe and DeHart (59), a peristyle was “a series of columns that surrounded and gave support to buildings or those columns that surrounded the courts”. The ancient communities were devoted to different kinds of Gardens. Historical evidence shows that the Greek earliest peristyle courtyards were a common architectural style during the classical period. It gave an idea of an outdoor green room (Chen 85).
Depending on the social standing sculptures, plants, fountains, pools and water features were placed along the corridors. Paintings were used on the walls to make the place look as if there were larger spaces. The Greeks used plants like mandrake, lilies, sea daffodils, date palm, cabbage rose and lemon (Bowe and DeHart 61).
The Romans combined the best properties of garden styles and designs previously used in Greece, Persia and Egypt to create unique recreational facilities. The roman peristyle garden was created at the center of a house and the atria. The garden was located in an open courtyard surrounded by columns.
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Ornamental plants, flowers and sculptures were found in the garden. If the family could afford it, fountains murals pools and running water were included (Bowe and DeHart 61). For the lower class, open ceilings and potted plants were common, especially in residential houses.
The gardens were for recreational purposes as well as places where people interacted with their nature. They reflected the importance of a house due to their size and magnificence. Noteworthy, the legacy of the peristyle garden styles and designs has influenced the modern architectural designs with different kind of plants and art (Bowe and DeHart 61).
Conan, Michel. Sacred Gardens and Landscapes: Ritual and Agency. New York: Dumbarton Oaks, 2012. Print
Chen, Gang. Planting design illustrated. New York: Archi 2011. Print
Bowe, Patrick and Michael DeHart. Gardens and Plants of the Getty Villa. Los Angeles: Getty, 2011. Print