Friday, December 21, 2012

The garden in the library: Cicero and the stuff of life

Reconstruction of a Roman villa garden
I've my regular ABC column up today, 'The garden in the library: Cicero and the stuff of life'.

I'm revealing the value of a library garden for Marcus Tullius Cicero, the famous Roman orator, lawyer and philosopher. A sample:
From Cicero himself to the villa vines he adored, was the same perfection of form and function; the same cosmic blueprint. And above it all, the bright blue sky - so often overlooked by pedantic babblers, but for the simple, patient Stoic a cause for awe, reverence.
If he had no truck with deified abstractions and the crowded fancy of Olympus, Cicero had a genuine feeling for the mind at the heart of things; for the external fire of nature. Even after his even-handed exposition, he was unshaken. He believed that the Stoic cosmology 'approximated more nearly to a semblance of truth.' A guarded confession, but a confession nonetheless: Cicero's nature had a divinity in it, which no clever analysis shook off. 
In Varro's villa garden, and his own at Tusculum, Cicero confronted this god. Not in the wilderness, but in a new nature: forged from human intelligence and the unfurling stuff of plant and animal life. It spoke of the Stoic god's perfect, providential divinity, but in a new language, comprehensible to mortals requiring agriculture, leisure, creature comforts. 'By means of our hands we struggle to create,' wrote Cicero, 'a second world within the world of nature.' 
The garden was the statesman's second, sacred world. Nature gave man the 'power and process' of life, and then gave him reason to master it - Varro's garden library brought both gifts together.
(Photo: Sailko)

1 comment:

aquaduck said...

“Cicero suppressed the revolt by executing five conspirators without due process” I suppose even Stoics have a dark side…living by the sword he also died by the sword

If I am to understand it...Cicero was a Pantheist with a deep reverence for nature who acknowledges the human ability to apply intellect & creativeness. As much as he was a public figure in the wild but civilized Republic of Rome, he also had some money which afforded him the ability to build a private Idaho of sorts.

Not the usual backyard garden here in OZ that you & I, or Maria & Stavross may tend, especially with water rates the way they are these days, but a place none the less to do our thing…

“These Romans are crazy” …. Ave