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Byzantine Garden Culture

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Eastern Roman Geoponika
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  This is an extract from: Byzantine Garden Culture  © 2002 Dumbarton OaksTrustees for Harvard UniversityWashington, D.C.Printed in the United States of America published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and CollectionWashington, D.C. www.doaks.org/etexts.html edited by Antony Littlewood, Henry Maguire,and Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn  Byzantine Gardens and Horticulture in the LateByzantine Period, 1204–1453:TheSecularSources Costas N. Constantinides Despite the attractiveness of the theme and the work of colleagues in recent years, 1  theByzantine garden is still not well known, mainly because of the paucity of sources. I havechosen to examine, by use of the secular literature, the late Byzantine period, from ca. 1204to the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. This period seems to have beenless thoroughly investigated than have most earlier periods, and a concentration on it shouldproduce a more coherent picture than another attempt to cover the whole span of Byzan-tine history. It is, moreover, the only period from which there survives any sizable quantityof documentary evidence for productive gardens.During these last 250 years of Greek rule, conditions drastically curtailed the tradition,which stretched back to Hellenistic times, of building luxurious villas, mostly outside thecities, with pleasing gardens, as appear in mosaics and frescoes or are recorded in texts. At atime when the safety of the countryside was shaken, especially after around 1300, this hadbecome practically impossible. Nevertheless, it appears that the declining empire continuedto uphold the ideals and culture it had preserved for centuries. Although the pleasure gardenseems to have been gradually replaced by the pro fi table vegetable garden, or the fl ower garden of the household by the kitchen garden, there were individuals of considerableculture and wealth who could, always within the limits of Christian piety, appreciate plea-sure gardens and ensure their continued existence, however precarious, in the big cities.Poets used the color and fragrance of fl owers in their poetry; rhetoricians, following an oldtradition, spoke appreciatively of the presence of gardens in cities or outside public build-ings in their encomia, or ekphraseis; scholars continued to study and copy the relevanttextbooks, like the Geoponika,  while a few intellectuals went beyond the traditional limitsand composed works like the Porikologos (“Fruit Book”), where many fruits are presented as Special thanks to Joseph Munitiz, who read an earlier draft of this essay and suggested a number of stylistic improvements; also to an anonymous reader and especially to Antony R. Littlewood for his great helpwith the fi nal version. I am also grateful to Dumbarton Oaks for granting me a summer fellowship in 1996,which enabled me to examine rare texts in their excellent collection. 1 See A.R. Littlewood, “The Scholarship of Byzantine Gardens,” in this volume, 13–21.  88 Costas N. Constantinides taking part in legal procedures satirizing court ceremonial. That fl owers continued to existin the minds of people, though not always in their kitchen gardens, is apparent from themany proverbs in both the high and the demotic style which were in everyday use in boththe written and the oral language during the late Byzantine period. Productive Gardens During the period under investigation the Byzantines lost much of the countrysidethat had supplied the towns and cities with fruit and vegetables. Many peasants were forcedto abandon their farmlands and take refuge in the walled towns or fl ee to Constantinopleand the other lands still in Christian hands as Turkish tribes advanced quickly throughByzantine territory in both Asia and Europe. 2  This development turned the neglected areasinto uncultivated regions of wild nature, while many deserted settlements soon fell intoruins. When Michael VIII Palaiologos took an army into Bithynia in the autumn of 1281 tocombat the threat from a Turkish tribe later to be known as the Ottomans, he found the areaof the Sangarios River abandoned and impassable. Having known this region well from hisservice there as a young general some thirty years earlier, he fell into despair on seeing whathe described as a “Skythian desert.” There were, however, still abundant fruits on the trees,enough to feed his army. 3  That the European lands of the empire su ff  ered a similar abandon-ment is reported by Pero Tafur, a Spanish traveler, who upon visiting the area of Adrianoplein the autumn of 1437 noted that the land, though fruitful, was depopulated by war. 4 Nevertheless, there were still market gardens and orchards. These were known by avariety of names indicating both size and purpose: ke¯pos, ke¯pion, ke¯poperibolion, ke¯potopion,ke¯poreion, which are all regularly found in Athonite  praktika (inventories) from the thirteenthcentury on, refer mostly to vegetable gardens; ampeloke¯pion and ampeloperibolion refer respectively to a mixed vineyard and vegetable garden and to a vineyard (Fig. 1) and orchard.These texts employ also, but only very occasionally, the term  paradeisos  (which appears morein rhetorical texts and especially in late Byzantine romances): when used in a literal sense,this means a pleasure garden with fl owers and trees mixed together. 5  Unfortunately such 2 For the Christian refugees who fl ed from Bithynia in 1302, see G. Pachymeres, De Michaele et AndronicoPalaeologis, ed. I. Bekker, 2 vols. (Bonn, 1835), 2:335–37. For the decline and abandonment of the city of Sardisin the 14th century, see the patriarchal document of 1382 in MM 2:46. 3 G. Akropolites, Opera,  ed. A. Heisenberg, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1903), 1:163.8; see esp. Pachymeres, Relationshistoriques,  ed. A. Failler and trans. V. Laurent (Paris, 1984), 1.6:29, 633.12–637.8 (hereafter Failler-Laurent, Pachymérès ). A century later, in 1391, Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos passed through the same area while follow-ing, as a vassal, the sultan Bayezid I in his campaign against the emirs of Sinope and Kastamouni on the southshore of the Black Sea. Manuel tells us in a letter addressed to his tutor and friend Demetrios Kydones that themarching army came across deserted areas and ruins of cities whose names the antiquarian emperor realizedwere unknown to the local people. See The Letters of Manuel II Palaeologus,  ed. G.T. Dennis, CFHB 8 (Washing-ton, D.C., 1977), no. 16; see also J. Barker, Manuel II Palaeologus (1391–1425): A Study in Late Byzantine States-manship  (New Brunswick, N.J., 1969), 90–91. 4 Pero Tafur, Travels and Adventures, 1435–1439,  ed. and trans. M. Letts (London, 1926), 128. 5 See E.M. Je ff  reys, “The Question of Western In fl uence on Greek Popular Verse Romances, with Par-ticular Reference to the Garden-Castle Theme” (B.Litt. thesis, University of Oxford, 1968), esp. 110–13; A.R.Littlewood, “Romantic Paradises: The Rôle of the Garden in the Byzantine Romance,” BMGS   5 (1979): 102,  Byzantine Gardens and Horticulture in the Late Byzantine Period, 1204–1453 89 1Parable of the Laborers in the Vine- yard. Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale,gr. 74, fol. 39v (photo: BibliothèqueNationale de France) documentary texts, while presumably in large part factually accurate, do not describe theactual gardens. For descriptions (usually brief and often vague) we must rely primarily onrhetoricians who frequently, in writing models for their students, merely recycled materialfrom their predecessors, who were writing of quite di ff  erent locations and were too, of course, more concerned with expressing the beauties of the traditional locus amoenus  thanthe speci fi c features that the historian craves. 6  Their general pictures are likely to be largelycorrect, but all details are suspect.The historian George Akropolites speaks of a large garden nearly eight stadia (i.e., ca.1,480 m) outside Thessalonike, called the garden of Provatas. This seems to have been avegetable garden, and it was there that John III Vatatzes camped with his army in 1242 whentrying to recover the city from the separatist rulers of Epiros. 7  A century and a half later welearn from  praktika that the Athonite monastery of Iveron owned two gardens within thewalls of Thessalonike and a large cultivated garden outside the walls close to the GoldenGate (i.e., in the west-southwest of the city) and stretching along the coastline. These hugegardens were let in 1404 to the noble family of the Argyropouloi at an annual rent of 30 105–8. 6 See H.-V. Beyer, “Der ‘Heilige Berg’ in der byzantinischen Literatur,”  JÖB   30 (1981): 171–205; A.R.Littlewood, “Gardens of Byzantium,”  Journal of Garden History  12 (1992): 144; L. Brubaker and A.R. Littlewood,“Byzantinische Gärten,” in Der Garten von der Antike bis zum Mittelalter,  ed. M. Carroll-Spillecke (Mainz amRhein, 1992), 245. 7 Akropolites, ed. Heisenberg, 1:66.8.  90 Costas N. Constantinides gold coins. The Argyropouloi were also obliged to provide for the needs of the monasteryadequate amounts of produce from the gardens; among the items mentioned in the docu-ment are cabbages, leeks, carrots, garlic, onions, courgettes, melons, and cucumbers as well aspomegranates. The Argyropouloi pro fi tably exploited the property, expanded the cultivatedland, improved the irrigation, and hired out the gardens to a number of gardeners, whosenames are given in the document, and thus they earned much more than the annual rentthey paid to the monastery. This caused disagreement with the monastery, whose monkstook the case before the court in Thessalonike and even to Emperor Manuel II Palaiologoshimself in 1421. The emperor ordered his son in Thessalonike, the despot Andronikos, after hearing the views of the Argyropouloi, to return the gardens to the monastery. The fate of these gardens, which seem to have supplied Thessalonike with fresh vegetables for many years, cannot be followed after 1430, when the Ottomans stormed into the city and carriedaway most of its citizens. 8 The Athonite  praktika  mention not only many other kepoi   in the area of easternMacedonia and Chalkidike that the monasteries had acquired through donation or pur-chase, but also water mills used in irrigating the gardens. These registers of land also refer tothe small gardens or kitchen gardens owned by most families living in villages whose landbelonged to the Athonite monasteries. We know the types of trees grown in these gar-dens—and almost every household could boast at least one tree. The following are men-tioned: fi g, walnut, pear, cherry, quince, almond, apple, pomegranate, olive, chestnut, mul-berry, and oak. The great number of vineyards mentioned in these documents indicates thatthe area was well cultivated and productive. The same trees are cultivated today in the areaof Chalkidike, evidence that few changes have occurred in both the farming habits and theclimate of this area, at least before the introduction of mechanized agriculture. 9  One sus-pects, but cannot, of course, prove, that in these gardens the instructions given in the Geoponika (which was preserved mostly through late Byzantine manuscripts) for cultivating fl owersbeneath the trees were often followed. 10 From the Peloponnese there survives a fi fteenth-century description by the church-man John Eugenikos of the village of Petrina, east of Sparta. Eugenikos speaks of the 8 For a recent edition of these documents, see  Actes d’Iviron,  vol. 4 (Paris, 1995), 1: nos. 97–98, 151–64.Document no. 98 is a sekretiko;n gravmma  of the katholikoi kritai   of Thessalonike of April 1421 (text, 158–62,pls. ‒ ), while no. 99 (text, 164, pl.  ) is a  prostagma  of Emperor Manuel II of June 1421. The fi rst,acephalous, document was also published by Ioakeim Iberites in Gregorios Palamas  5 (1921): 846–51, and by F.Dölger,  Aus den Schatzkammern des Heiligen Berges, Textband   (Munich, 1948), no. 102, 263–72 (text, 266–69). Thesecond document was also published by Ioakeim Iberites in Gregorios Palamas  1 (1917): 541–42, and by Dölger, Schatzkammern,  no. 24, 69–71 (text, 70). For the gardens owned by this monastery in Thessalonike, see  Actesd’Iviron,  vol. 3, De 1204 à 1328,  Archives de l’Athos 18 (Paris, 1994), no. 76, 240.60–62 and no. 84, 299.3–4 and300.27. For literature on the disputes over these gardens, see Littlewood, “Scholarship.” 9 Cf. A. Laiou-Thomadakis, Peasant Society in the Late Byzantine Empire: A Social and Demographic Study (Princeton, N.J., 1977), 32; improved Greek trans. (Athens, 1992), 47–51. 10 To; de; metaxu; tw'n devndrwn plhrouvsqw rJovdwn kai; krivnwn kai; i[wn kai; krovkou, a} kai; th/  ' o[yei kai; th/  ' ojsfrhvsei kai; th/  ' crhvsei ejsti;n h{dista kai; eujprosovdeuta, kai; tai'" melivssai" wjfevlima . Geoponika,  ed. H.Beckh (Leipzig, 1895), 10.1.264.3–6.
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