Experiencing Nature in Ancient Rome

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][text_output] Director Ria Berg’s research project focuses on the ancient Roman attitudes towards nature, reflected in many ways in the built environment as well as in art and literature. This relationship can be examined both as a personal experience of individual Romans and in a broader societal, ethical and philosophical sense. The relationship also underwent constant changes while Rome grew from a small village to a metropolis and again when urban areas shrunk during Late Antiquity.

Important background questions include the following: How consciously was the relationship with nature pondered in the Roman culture and what kind of meanings did it have in religion, literature and art. To what kind of fears and negative sensations did nature give rise? How was nature aesthetized or idealized in poetry and visual arts, and when was nature a luxury? The approach of the research project is multidisciplinary, combining methods and source materials from archaeology, history, art history and the study of classical languages and literatures with newer theoretical premises such as materiality, the study of emotions and ecocriticism.

Important research topics include the intermediate spaces and the points of contact between nature and the built environment. These will be studied for example by observing how elements of wild nature were preserved in the middle of urban city structures and how man-made constructions – such as cave sanctuaries, fountain buildings, pavilions and pergolas – extended to natural environments. How was the transition between the city and the surrounding nature mentally structured and experienced as concrete spaces, routes and stops in the urban city structure?

Case studies will also be conducted on houses in Pompeii and Ostia where the relationship with nature materialized in the articulations of indoor and outdoor spaces, in the paintings and sculptures decorating houses and in the decorative patterns of household objects. These help us consider how and why ancient Romans maintained close contact with nature in their urban and domestic environments.

The result of the research project will be an upgraded overall picture of the different aspects of the ancient Romans’ relationship with nature. A further research objective is to survey and consider the early stages of Western relationship with nature, including its problematic aspects.


Kuva: Wikimedia Commons (a) Museo archeologico nazionale di Napoli