Gardens of Maecenas

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Painting of Villa of Maecenas, Jacob Philipp Hackert, 1783
Egyptian granodiorite statue of Apis found in the vicinity of the Gardens of Maecenas, noted as the site of many cultural artifacts, on the Esquiline (Palazzo Altemps, Rome)

The Gardens of Maecenas, built by Gaius Maecenas, an Augustan-era patron of the arts, were the first gardens in the Hellenistic-Persian garden style in Rome. He sited them on the Esquiline Hill, atop the agger of the Servian Wall and its adjoining necropolis, near the gardens of Lamia.


Difficulty exists when attempting to reconcile the indications in ancient literature in order to determine the exact locations of places noted therein. Topographers disagree about whether the gardens lay on both sides of the Servian Wall and both north and south of the porta Esquilina. Many of the burial pits of the ancient necropolis have been found near the north-west corner of the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, that is, outside the porta Esquilina and the Servian Wall and north of the via Tiburtina vetus. Probably, the horti extended north from that gate and road, on both sides of the agger.[1]


Auditorium of Maecenas, Esquiline
Interior of auditorium

Maecenas is said to have been the first to construct a swimming bath of hot water in Rome.[2] It may have been in the gardens. A purchase of the horti Maecenatiani by Fronto is noted later in ancient literature. Whether they were the former gardens of Maecenas, or merely called so for some other reason, is unknown.[3]

A domus Frontoniana mentioned during the twelfth century in the topographical guide to Rome by Magister Gregorius, also may refer to these gardens.[4]

The gardens contained terraces, libraries, and other aspects of Roman culture, and reportedly, incurred the displeasure of Seneca the Younger.[citation needed] It is likely that the gardens contained the Auditorium of Maecenas.


The gardens became imperial property after Maecenas's death. Tiberius lived there after his return to Rome in 2 AD.[5] Nero connected them with the Palatine Hill via his Domus Transitoria,[6] and viewed the burning of that palatial house from the turris Maecenatiana[7] This turris probably is the molem propinquam nubibus arduis ("the pile, among the clouds") mentioned by Horace.[8]


  1. ^ HJ 345‑7; BC 1874, 166‑171; Richter, 313; LR 411‑413; Cons. 155 ff. for works of art found here.
  2. ^ Cassius Dio LV.7.6
  3. ^ Fronto, ad M. Caesarem 2.2 - "Plane multum mihi facetiarum contulit istic Horatius Flaccus, memorabilis poeta mihique propter Maecenatem ac Maecenatianos hortos meos non alienus. Is namque Horatius Sermonum libr(o) s(ecundo) fabulam istam Polemonis inseruit, si recte memini, hisce versibus..."
  4. ^ Journal of Roman Studies, 53.1 (1919:35)
  5. ^ Suetonius, Tiberius 15
  6. ^ Tac. Ann. XV.39
  7. ^ Suet. Nero 38
  8. ^ Horace, Odes, iii.29.10.


  • Horace, Satires i.8.14 - "nunc licet Esquiliis habitare salubribus atque / aggere in aprico spatiari, quo modo tristes / albis informem spectabant ossibus agrum,/cum mihi non tantum furesque feraeque suetae/hunc vexare locum curae sunt atque labori/quantum carminibus quae versant atque venenis/humanos animos: has nullo perdere possum/nec prohibere modo, simul ac vaga luna decorum/protulit os, quin ossa legant herbasque nocentis."
  • Acro, Porphyrio, and Comm. Cruq. ad loc.
  • Topographical Dictionary

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Coordinates: 41°53′38″N 12°30′05″E / 41.8940°N 12.5014°E / 41.8940; 12.5014