Browne's Picture of QuincunxesQuincunxes

Quid Quincunce speciosus,
qui, in quamcunque partem spectaveris, rectus est? — Quintillian


The Garden of CYRUS.


The Quincunciall, Lozenge,
or Net-work Plantations of the
Ancients, Artificially, Na-

turally, Mystically Considered


That Vulcan gave arrows unto Apollo and Diana the fourth day after their Nativities, according to Gentile Theology,[2] may passe for no blinde apprehension of the Creation of the Sunne and Moon, in the work of the fourth day; When the diffused light contracted into Orbes, and shooting rayes, of those Luminaries. Plainer Descriptions there are from Pagan pens, of the creatures of the fourth day; While the divine Philosopher3 unhappily omitteth the noblest part of the third; And Ovid (whom many conceive to have borrowed his description from Moses) coldly deserting the remarkable account of the text, in three words,4 describeth this work of the third day; the vegetable creation, and first ornamentall Scene of nature; the primitive food of animals, and first story of Physick, in Dietetical conservation.

For though Physick may pleade high, from that medicall act of God, in casting so deep a sleep upon our first Parent; And Chirurgery5 finde its whole art, in that one passage concerning the Rib of Adam, yet is there no rivality with Garden contrivance and Herbery. For if Paradise were planted the third day of the Creation, as wiser Divinity concludeth, the Nativity thereof was too early for Horoscopie; Gardens were before Gardiners, and but some hours after the earth.[6]

Of deeper doubt is its Topography, and locall designation, yet being the primitive garden, and without much7 controversie seated in the East; it is more then probable the first curiosity, and cultivation of plants, most flourished in those quarters. And since the Ark of Noah first toucht upon some mountains of Armenia, the planting art arose again in the East, and found its revolution not far from the place of its Nativity, about the Plains of those Regions. And if Zoroaster were either Cham, Chus, or Mizraim, they were early proficients therein, who left (as Pliny delivereth) a work of Agriculture.

However the account of the Pensill or hanging gardens of[8] Babylon, if made by Semiramis, the third or fourth from Nimrod, is of no slender antiquity; which being not framed upon ordinary levell of ground, but raised upon pillars, admitting under-passages, we cannot accept as the first Babylonian Gardens; But a more eminent progress and advancement in that art, then any that went before it: Somewhat answering or hinting the old Opinion concerning Paradise it self, with many conceptions elevated, above the plane of the Earth.{9}

Nebuchodnosor whom some will have to be the famous Syrian king of Diodorus, beautifully repaired that City; and so magnificently built his10 hanging gardens; that from succeeding Writers he had the honour of the first. From whence over-looking Babylon, and all the region about it, he found no circumscription to the eye of his ambition, till over-delighted with the bravery of this Paradise; in his melancholy metamorphosis, he found the folly of that delight, and a proper punishment, in the contrary habitation, in wilde plantations and wanderings of the fields.

The Persian Gallants who destroyed this Monarchy, maintained their Botanicall bravery. Unto whom we owe the very name of Paradise; wherewith we meet not in Scripture before the time of Solomon, and conceived originally Persian. The word for that disputed Garden, expressing in the Hebrew no more then a Field enclosed, which from the same Root is content to derive a garden and a Buckler.[11a]

Cyrus the elder brought up in Woods and Mountains, when time and power enabled, pursued the dictate of his education, and brought the treasures of the field into rule and circum-scription. So nobly beautifying the hanging Gardens of Babylon, that he was also thought to be the authour thereof.

Ahasuerus (whom many conceive to have been Artaxerxes Longi-manus) in the Countrey and City of Flowers,11 and in an open Garden, entertained his Princes and people, while Vashti more modestly treated the Ladies within the Palace thereof.

But if (as some opinion)12 King Ahasuerus were Artaxerxes Mnemnon, that found a life and reign answerable unto his great memory, our magnified Cyrus was his second Brother; who gave the occasion of that memorable work, and almost miraculous retrait of Xenophon.[13] A person of high spirit and honour, naturally a King, though fatally prevented by the harmlesse chance of post-geniture: Not only a Lord of Gardens, but a manuall planter thereof: disposing his trees like his armies in regular ordination. So that while old Laertas hath found a name in Homer for pruning hedges, and clearing away thorns and bryars; while King Attalus lives for his poysonous plantations of Aconites, Henbane, Hellebore, and plants hardly admitted within the walls of Paradise; While many of the Ancients do poorly live in the single names of Vegetables; All stories do look upon Cyrus, as the splendid and regular planter.

According whereto Xenophon14 describeth his gallant plantation at Sardis, thus rendred by Strebæus. Arbores pari intervallo sitas, rectos ordines, & omnia perpulchre in Quincuncem directa.15 Which we shall take for granted as being accordingly rendred by the most elegant of the Latines;16 and by no made term, but in use before by Varro. That is the rows and orders so handsomely disposed; or five trees so set together, that a regular angularity, and through prospect, was left on every side, Owing this name not only unto the Quintuple number of Trees, but the figure declaring that number, which being doubled at the angle, makes up the Letter χ, that is the Emphaticall decussation, or fundamentall figure.

Now though in some ancient and modern practice the area or decussated plot, might be a perfect square, answerable to a Tuscan Pedestall, and the Quinquernio or Cinque-point of a dye; wherein by Diagonall lines the intersection was rectangular[17]; accomodable unto Plantations of large growing Trees; and we must not deny our selves the advantage of this order; yet shall we chiefly insist upon that of Curtius and Porta,18 in their brief description hereof. Wherein the decussis is made within a longilaterall square, with opposite angles, acute and obtuse at the intersection; and so upon progression making a Rhombus or Lozenge figuration, which seemeth very agreeable unto the Originall figure; Answerable whereunto we observe the decussated characters in many consulary Coynes, and even in those of Constantine and his Sons, which pretend their pattern in the Sky; the crucigerous Ensigne carried this figure, not transversly[19] or rectangularly intersected, but in a decussation, after the form of an Andrean or Burgundian cross, which answereth this description.

Where by the way we shall decline the old Theme, so traced by antiquity of crosses and crucifixion: Whereof some being right, and of one single peece without traversion or transome, do little advantage our subject. Nor shall we take in the mysticall Tau, or the Crosse of our blessed Saviour, which having in some descriptions an Empedon or crossing foot-stay, made not one single transversion. And since the Learned Lipsius hath made some doubt even of the Crosse of St Andrew, since some Martyrologicall Histories deliver his death by the generall Name of a crosse, and Hippolitus will have him suffer by the sword; we should have enough to make out the received Crosse of that Martyr. Nor shall we urge the labarum, and famous Standard of Constantine, or make further use thereof, then as the first Letters in the Name of our Saviour Christ, in use among Christians, before the dayes of Constantine, to be observed in Sepulchral Monuments of Martyrs,20 in the reign of Adrian, and Antoninus; and to be found in the Antiquities of the Gentiles, before the advent of Christ, as in the Medall of King Ptolomy, signed with the same characters, and might be the beginning of some word or name, which Antiquaries have not hit on.

We will not revive the mysterious crosses of Ægypt, with circles on their heads, in the breast of Serapis, and the hands of their Geniall spirits, not unlike the characters of Venus, and looked on by ancient Christians, with relation unto Christ. Since however they first began, the Ægyptians thereby expressed the processe and motion of the spirit of the world, and the diffusion thereof upon the Celestiall and Elementall nature; implyed by a circle and right-lined intersection.[21] A secret in their Telesmes and magicall Characters among them. Though he that considereth the plain crosse22 upon the head of the Owl in the Laterane Obelisk, or the crosse23 erected upon a picher diffusing streams of water into two basins, with sprinkling branches in them, and all described upon a two-footed Altar, as in the Hieroglyphics of the brasen Table of Bembus;[24] will hardly decline all thought of Christian signality in them.

We shall not call in the Hebrew Tenupha, or ceremony of their Oblations, waved by the Priest unto the four quarters of the world, after the form of a cross; as in the peace-offerings. And if it were clearly made out what is remarkably delivered from the Traditions of the Rabbins, that as the Oyle was powred coronally or circularlly upon the head of Kings, so the High-Priest was anointed decussatively or in the form of a X; though it could not escape a typicall thought of Christ, from mysticall considerators; yet being the conceit is Hebrew, we should rather expect its verification from Analogy in that language, then to confine the same unto the unconcerned Letters of Greece, or make it out by the characters of Cadmus or Palamedes.

Of this Quincunciall Ordination the Ancients practised much discoursed little; and the Moderns have nothing enlarged; which he that more nearly considereth, in the form of its square Rhombus, and decussation, with the several commodities, mysteries, parallelismes, and resemblances, both in Art and Nature, shall easily discern the elegancy of this order.

That this was in some wayes of practice in diverse and distant nations, hints or deliveries there are from no slender Antiquity. In the hanging Gardens of Babylon, from Abydenus, Eusebius, and others, Curtius describeth this Rule of decussation.25 In the memorable garden of Alcinous anciently conceived an originall phancy, from Paradise, mention there is of well contrived order; For so hath Didymus and Eustachius expounded the emphatical word. Diomedes describing the Rurall possessions of his father, gives account in the same Language of Trees orderly planted. And Ulysses being a boy was promised by his Father fourty Figge-trees, and fifty rows of Vines producing all kinde of grapes.26

That the Eastern Inhabitants of India, made use of such order, even in open Plantations, is deducible from Theophrastus; who describing the trees whereof they made their garments, plainly delivereth that they were planted κατ´ὄρχους,[27] and in such order that at a distance men would mistake them for Vineyards. The same seems confirmed in Greece from a singular expression in Aristotle28 concerning the order of Vines, delivered by a military term representing the orders of Souldiers, which also confirmeth the antiquity of this form yet used in vineall plantations.

That the same was used in Latine plantations is plainly confirmed from the commending penne of Varro, Quintilian, and handsome Description of Virgil.29

That the first plantations not long after the Floud were disposed after this manner, the generality and antiquity of this order observed in Vineyards, and Wine plantations, affordeth some conjecture. And since from judicious enquiry, Saturn who divided the world between his three sonnes[30], who beareth a Sickle in his hand, who taught the plantations of Vines, the setting, grafting of trees, and the best part of Agriculture, is discovered to be Noah, whether this early dispersed Husbandry in Vineyards, had not its Originall in that Patriarch, is no such Paralogicall doubt.

And if it were clear that this was used by Noah after the Floud, I could easily beleeve it was in use before it; Not willing to fix such ancient inventions no higher originall then Noah; Nor readily conceiving those aged Heroes, whose diet was vegetable, and only, or chiefly consisted in the fruits of the earth, were much deficient in their splendid cultivations; or after the experience of fifteen hundred years, left much for future discovery in Botanicall Agriculture. Nor fully perswaded that Wine was the invention of Noah, that fermented Liquors, which often make themselves, so long escaped their Luxury or experience; that the first sinne of the new world was no sin of the old. That Cain and Abel were the first that offered Sacrifice; or because the Scripture is silent that Adam or Isaac offered none at all.

Whether Abraham brought up in the first planting Countrey, observed not some rule hereof, when he planted a grove at Beer-sheba; or whether at least a like ordination were not in the Garden of Solomon, probability may contest. Answerably unto the wisedom of that eminent Botanologer, and orderly disposer of all his other works. Especially since this was one peece of Gallantry, wherein he pursued the specious part of felicity, according to his own description. I made me Gardens and Orchards, and planted Trees in them of all kindes of fruit. I made me Pools of water, to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth Trees,31 which was no ordinary plantation, if according to the Targam, or Chaldee Paraphrase, it contained all kindes of Plants, and some fetched as far as India; And the extent thereof were from the wall of Jerusalem unto the water of Siloah.

And if Jordan were but Jaar Eden, that is, the River of Eden, Genesar but Gansar or the Prince of Gardens; and it could be made out, that the Plain of Jordan were watered not comparatively, but causally, and because it was the Paradise of God, as the Learned Abramas32 hinteth, he was not far from the Prototype and originall of Plantations. And since even in Paradise it self, the tree of knowledge was placed in the middle of the Garden, whatever was the ambient figure, there wanted not a centre and rule of decussation. Whether the groves and sacred Plantations of Antiquity, were not thus orderly placed, either by quaternio’s, or quintuple ordinations, may favourably be doubted. For since they were so methodicall in the constitutions of their temples, as to observe the due scituation, aspect, manner, form, and order in Architectonicall relations, whether they were not as distinct in their groves and Plantations about them, in form and species respectively unto their Deities, is not without probability of conjecture. And in their groves of the Sunne this was a fit number, by multiplication to denote the dayes of the year; and might Hieroglyphically speak as much, as the mysticall Statua of Janus33 in the Language of his fingers. And since they were so criticall in the number of his horses, the strings of his Harp, and rayes about his head, denoting the orbes of heaven, the Seasons and Moneths of the Yeare; witty Idolatry would hardly be flat in other appropriations.


1. [The running titles of The Garden of Cyrus are as follows: Chapter I: “Cyrus-Garden, Or The Quincunx”; II: “Cyrus-Garden, Or The Quincunx Artificially Considered”; III: “Cyrus-Garden, Or The Quincunx Naturally Considered”; IIII and V: “Cyrus-Garden, Or The Quincunx Mistically Considered”.]

2. [Statius, Theb. i, 563; Lucretius i, 740; Propertius, ii, 31, 16; Lucret. 1, 749; Cic. Div. i, 36]

3. Plato in Timæo.

4. fronde tegi silvas. [Ovid. Metmorph. I, 44.]

5. διάρεσις, in opening the flesh, ἐξαίρεσις, in taking out the rib. σῦνϑεσις in closing up the part again.

6. [Gardens created before the stars, the Sun and the Moon (on day 4), and hence too early for horoscopy; and before the first gardener, Adam, on the sixth day; but cf. Genesis 2.4-10, where man is created before gardens.]

7. For some there is from the ambiguity of the word Mikedem, whether ab oriente or a principio. [Genesis 8.2]

8. [1658: “yf”]

9. {Wilkin notes the following passage from the Browne MS. Sloan 1847, “evidently intended for this work”: “We are unwilling to diminish or loose the credit of Paradise, or only pass it over with Eden, though the Greek be of a later name. In this excepted, we know not whether the ancient gardens do equal those of late times, or those at present in Europe. Of the gardens of Herperies, we know nothing singular, but some golden apples. Of Alcinous his garden, we read nothing beyond figgs, apples, and olives; if we allow it to be any more than a fiction of Homer, unhappily placed in Corfu, where the sterility of the soil makes men believe there was no such thing at all. The gardens of Adonis were so empty that they afforded proverbial expression, and the principal part thereof was empty spaces, with herbs and flowers in pots. I think we little understand the pensile gardens of Semiramis, which made one of the wonders of it, wherein probably the structure exceeded the plants contained in them. The excellency thereof was probably in the trees, and if the descension of the roots be equal to the height of trees, it was not [absurd] of Strebæus to think the pillars were hollow that the roots might shoot into them.”}

10. Josephus. [Ant. Jud. X.11.1, quoting Berosus.]

11a. [כן, gan “garden”; מכן, magan, “shield, buckler”; both from the root כנן, ganan “to protect”.]

11. Shushan in Susiana [or Susa; Esther 1.5].

12. Plutarch in the life of Artaxerxes. [Chapter 1]

13. [The Anabasis.]

14. Xenophon in Oeconomico [IV, 21: see next note].

15. Καλὰ μὲν τά δένδρα, δί ἰσου δε τὰ πεφυτευμένας ὀρθοι δε ὁι στίχοι τῶν δένδρων, ἐυδιώνια δε πάντα καλῶς.

16. Cicero in Cat. Major. [That is, “quincunx”; de Senuctete, XVII.59.]

17. [1658: “regular”]

18. Benedict Curtius de Hortis. Bapt. porta in villa.

19. [1658: “transverly”]

20. Of Marius, Alexander, Roma Sotteranea.

21. [Hydriotaphia: “Circles and right lines limit and close all bodies, and the mortall right-lined circle, must conclude and shut up all” (chapter V)].

22. Wherein the lower part is somewhat longer, as defined by Upton de studio militari, and Johannes de Bado Aureo, cum comment. clariss. & doctiss. Bissæi.

23. Casal. de Ritibus. Bosio nella Trionfante croce.

24. [The “brasen table” is a “Table of Isis” in bronze and silver once in the possession of Cardinal Pietro Bembo, the Renaissance scholar. There is a picture of it at Wikipedia Commons; see also the brief note here.]

25. Decussatio ipsa jucundum ac peramænum conspectum præbuit. Cart. Hortar. l.6. [Sic, for Curt. Hortor.: Benedictus Curtius (Benoît de Court), Hortorum libri triginta, 1560. A copy is available online at Gallica.]

26. ὄρχοι, στίχοι ἀμπέων, φυτῶν στίχος, ἡ χατὰ τάξιν φθτεία. Phavorinus Philoxenus [Odyssey, XXIV, 341; according to the explication by Favorinus and Philoxenus. Eustachius above, as in Book II, should almost certainly be Eustathius.]

27. [“In rows” (Theophrastus, On Plants, IV, iv, 8; vii, 7-8)]

28. ουστάδας ἀμπέλων. Polit. 7 [x, 5; Bekker 1330b line 29. In the English translation at that site, “what some farmers call ‘on the slant’”; a footnote refers to the Roman quincunx.].

29. Indulge ordinibus, nec secius omnis in unguem Arboribus positis, secto via limite quadret. Georg. 2 [277-8].

30. [1658: “three stones”]

31. Eccles. 2.

32. Vet. Testamenti Pharus.

33. Which King Numa set up with his fingers so disposed that they numerically denoted 365 Pliny [XXXIV, 16, sect. 33; and see the discussion on finger notation in J. Hilton Turner (1951) Class. J. 47:2, 63].

This page is by James Eason.