Archaeologists have discovered a series of mosaics they believe formed
part of ancient pleasure gardens built in Rome in the first century BC.
The mosaics, in turquoise, gold and bright blue tones, were found nine
metres (30ft) beneath street level.
Scholars say the images, which include Cupid riding a dolphin,
probably lined a large nymphaeum (grotto).
The fabled gardens became a model for other gardens in the city. They
were created by retired Roman general Lucullus, who had conducted a
campaign in 69 BC against Armenia. When followed up by Pompey's campaign
two years later this served to make the kingdom in Eastern Anatolia
tributary to Rome.
The mosaics were uncovered during efforts to modernise a building
housing the Max Planck Institute - a German art history society - close to
Rome's famous Spanish steps.
"The architecture of the ancient Roman gardens appeared before our
eyes. It seems like a dream," Maria Antonietta Tomei, of the Rome
Superintendency for Archaeology, was quoted by the UK's Times newspaper as
The Gardens of Lucullus, built around a villa, were one of the first
attempts in the West to discipline nature through landscape gardening.