2. Cultivating the Soul

The Ethics of Gardening in Ancient Greece and Rome

  1. Dan O'Brien PhD Research Fellow Associate Lecturer
  1. Meghan T. Ray BA, MA museum scientist

Published Online: 13 AUG 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9781444324563.ch2

Gardening - Philosophy for Everyone

Gardening - Philosophy for Everyone

How to Cite

Ray, M. T. (2010) Cultivating the Soul, in Gardening - Philosophy for Everyone (ed D. O'Brien), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444324563.ch2

Editor Information

  1. Oxford Brookes University, UK

Author Information

  1. University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 13 AUG 2010
  2. Published Print: 24 SEP 2010

Book Series:

  1. Philosophy for Everyone

Book Series Editors:

  1. Fritz Allhoff

Series Editor Information

  1. Western Michigan University, USA

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444330212

Online ISBN: 9781444324563



  • cultivating the soul - the ethics of gardening in ancient Greece and Rome;
  • life in the modern world, attaching moral meaning to professional practices;
  • agriculture and farming life - topics in ancient Greece and Roman literature;
  • farms and gardens - evoking rich and complex set of cultural meanings about human nature;
  • tending gardens, pleasing to gods, pleasing to the state - being the healthiest and pleasantest of occupations;
  • farmer, the foundation of civic life - and farming, most gratifying to the gods;
  • Works and Days and the Oeconomicus - Hesiod and Xenophon's treatments of rural life;
  • Xenophon, addressing a different world - to that of Hesiod's rural farmer;
  • Oeconomicus, Xenophon developing the theme of the Gardener/King - with respect to Cyrus the Great and the pretender Cyrus the Younger;
  • Xenophon's ideas - concerning cultivation of the soil as part of estate management


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Greece

  • Rome

  • Conclusion

  • Notes