Page tree

Get started by adding some pages to this space. Create page.

Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata

Name: Miriam Bay

PhD: Classics & Ancient History, University of Birmingham

Thesis Title: Cultivating Narrative and Composing Landscape: Reading Ovid in the Italian Renaissance Garden

Supervisors and Institution(s): Professor Diana Spencer, Dr David Hemsoll, University of Birmingham

Thesis Description: 

My thesis presents a reconstruction of the Villa d’Este’s narrative experience, tracing the way in which geographical and mythical themes were intertwined to reconfigure the site as a new Garden of the Hesperides, where visitors followed the footsteps of Hercules’ heroic endeavors through a microcosmic vision of the surrounding Tiburtine landscape. I explore how archetypal mythic landscapes and locales of Ovid’s Metamorphoses shaped this narrative, and the intersection of text and site within the garden’s horticultural programmes. My research foregrounds the previously overlooked integrality of the planting schemes to the Villa d’Este’s ideological programmes. Whilst iconography remains significant, this thesis recenters attention on the botanical elements of the garden’s design, enabling a new interpretive approach to the garden’s narrative. My research sheds light on the experiential quality of visits to and encounters within the garden, focalised through both the semiotic and somatic experience of the strolling visitor. This results in a new understanding of how its physically immersive sensescape engaged visitors as active participants in the unfolding drama.

As part of my research I am working in partnership with Grade II listed Arts & Crafts villa Winterbourne House and Gardens to recreate an Italian Renaissance garden based upon plantings inspired by Ovid’s botany, designed by acclaimed landscape designer Kathryn Aalto. By adopting a phenomenological approach recreating the plantings of the past, I will define the garden encounter through its somatic experience, examining how the senses evoked a specific response in the visitor and are intrinsically linked with the semiotic elements of garden design.


Winterbourne Project: Ovid's Garden - Recreation of an Italian Renaissance garden based upon plantings inspired by the botany of Ovid. Designed by landscape designer Kathryn Aalto and in partnership with Winterbourne House & Gardens, a Grade II listed Arts & Crafts villa, funded by M3C Student Development Fund.

Classics Kitchen - The Classics Kitchen is a pop-up giving an interactive experience of food in the ancient world through cooking demonstrations, food samples and ancient recipes at educational outreach projects, including 'Experiencing Ancient Education Day' as part of the Being Human Festival of Humanities 2014, University of Reading.


CAHA Research Seminar, University of BirminghamThe Tiburtine Sibyl at the Villa d'Este: Oracular Encounters and Prophetic Locales

CAHA Colloquium 2016, University of Birmingham - The Transformation of Flora: Landscaping the Female Body

CA 2016, University of Edinburgh - Botanical Bodies: Ovid's Gendered Floriculture

 AMPRAW 2015, University Nottingham - Daedalus’ Legacy: Classical Invocation & Arboreal Invention in Italian Renaissance Garden Labyrinth Design

CAHA Colloquium 2015, University of Birmingham - The River Charmed by Ilia: The Aniene’s Ancient Origins at the Villa d’Este, Tivoli

Panel Convener

Classical Association 2016, University of Edinburgh - Ancient Botany in Text & Practice


The Monster in the Garden: The Grotesque and the Gigantic in Renaissance Landscape Design, by Luke Morgan. Landscape History Journal 38 (1), Spring 2017.

Events & Conferences

Hortus inclusus: Expanding Boundaries of Space and Time, 27th-28th June, The British School at Rome (conference administrator) - In celebration of the twenty years since the landmark Horti Romani conference opened new directions for the study of cultural landscapes, the British School at Rome will host Hortus inclusus: Expanding Boundaries of Space and Time, June 27–28, 2017. This conference aims to deepen out historical and environmental understanding of garden landscapes in the Roman empire and shape the conversation for the next generation of scholars. Taking inspiration from Virgil’s complaint in Georgics 4.147-8 that he cannot speak any longer on the subject of gardens because he is constrained (excludo) by space and time, Hortus inclusus expands the boundaries of the Roman garden beyond the Horti of the city of Rome.

For further information visit: 

Ovid's Garden Party, 18th June 2016, Winterbourne House - Opening event for Ovid's Garden, this event will include a drinks reception, with talks from myself, ‘Cultivating Narrative & Composing Landscape’, and garden designer and bestselling author Kathryn Aalto, ‘Creating Gardens with Narratives’, followed by performances of episodes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses by ancient Roman pantomime theatre group Avid For Ovid.

This event is sponsored by the AHRC Cultural Engagement Fund

For further information visit: 


Age of Nero seminars - Autumn Term 2015, 2016

Age of Cicero seminars - Spring Term 2016, 2017

Introduction to Greek and Roman History seminars - Autumn Term 2016, Spring Term 2017



  • No labels