The Greek Alcibiades was entranced by the gardens of the Persian satrap, Chithrafarna.
And more surreal for Alcibiades even than the Persian hunt – and yet no less important – were the hours he spent with Chithrafarna in his garden. As provincial representatives of the great King, satraps were obliged to mirror imperial court life, so that its values might percolate into every corner of the land, and gardens, parks or paradises, were a key constituent of this life, another sign of the Great King’s power to tame and structure nature, to cause order in an otherwise chaotic world. To stock this miniature, if idealised, kingdom, teams of gardeners transported trees, and shrubs, and vines, from every corner of the Persian realm, carefully transplanting them, solicitiously tending them, expertly irrigating them to create formal landscapes of breathtaking beauty., Geometry and symmetry were paramount, and a clever use of sightlines, meant that, strolling through the paradise, new vistas opened unexpectedly, revealing now a throne, now a pillared pavilion at the end of a long avenue, some satraps, kings, and princes themselves gardened. And Chithrafarna had spent a fortune on his paradise and orchards with their bubbling streams and meadows, ‘laying them out lovingly and with the utmost artistry with plants and all that is conducive to luxury, and the peaceful contemplation of fine things”. As a special honour to his new found friend, in whose company he spent so many happy hours here, Chithrafarna renamed his garden “The Paradise of Alcibiades”. “It was a charming gesture”
I wanted to share this with you as I thought it was so delightful.