Since man has existed, and, one might almost say, before man existed, there have been gardens.
I will refer only to the Garden of Eden which was, after all, the place in which man was born. It existed even before Adam and Eve came into the picture. One has heard of the gardens of Semiramis and the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
There are traces of an Egyptian Pharaoh's garden. It was the one designed by the Pharaoh Tutmosis III within the temple complex at Karnak. More recently, literature speaks of the splendors of the gardens of the Tivoli patrons, contemporaries of the emperor Nero. From a point of view of taste, they were considered to be the grandest, most beautiful and noblest that could be imagined. This caused a jealous Nero to have even more beautiful ones designed. They adorned the Domus Aurea. They were located under the present day parking lot at the Colosseum.
You have certainly heard of the gardens that the Empress Theodora had designed for her husband, Justinian, in Byzantium.
Wherever man exists, he finds the need to redesign, to recreate the world. A more beautiful world, purer, sweeter smelling and more colorful. A garden is probably the spot where the hopes for civilization are best captured. In fact, man defines himself by his garden.
A garden's purpose changes from place to place, from civilization to civilization.
I shall try to show you that these Italian Renaissance gardens, which appear to be simply pleasure gardens are, in fact, initiatory gardens. I have organized them in a proper initiatory order, starting with the simplest and going to the most complex. At the end of the journey, I hope that you will be sufficiently familiar with this concept of initiation to understand its true impact, its deep significance.