Both the classical Greco-Roman name, myrtus, from the Greek myron, and the Spanish of Arabic origin arrayán refer to one of the remarkable qualities of this plant: its perfume. It was used by both cultures as an essential element in their gardens. To the Romans it was the plant consecrated to Venus, Pliny narrates nuptial rites in which the spouses were crowned with myrtle at the banquet, and their erotic and Ovid also talks about its loving nature in his factos.
It played a key role in the topiary ars, creating sculptures and shapes through properly pruning plants such as the myrtle. This Roman tradition of using the myrtle as an aromatic hedge and sometimes sculptural gardens was continued by the Arabs in al-Andalus: in the al-Andalus poetry, it suffices to say arrayán to represent the entire garden. The Courtyard of the Myrtles in the Alhambra is an example of place of enjoyment associated with this shrub.
The hedges of many of the Alcázar gardens during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were made of myrtle. Spectacular in this regard was the case of the Garden of Galleys, named after the myrtle ships it had, and the sculptures of nymphs and satyrs composed of pieces of this plant in the Garden of Dance explaining the name by which this garden is still known. At the entrance to the Garden of the Ladies there was in time of the visit of Rodrigo Caro in 1634 two giant carved myrtle representing Hercules and Antaeus fighting. These examples tell us about the recovery of ars topiaria held since the Renaissance, a technique that created an artificial, ambiguous and amazing atmosphere, very Mannerist style at the moment.
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