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THE HANGING GARDENS

OF BABYLON

 

Next stop, the ancient city of Babylon ( modern day Iraq). 

 

Artist reconstruction of ancient Babylon.

 

Reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate that stood in Babylon during the time of Nebuchadnezzar II.

 

 


 

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

 

"The approach to the Garden sloped like a hillside and the several parts of the structure rose from one another tier on tier... On all this, the earth had been piled... and was thickly planted with trees of every kind that, by their great size and other charm, gave pleasure to the beholder... The water machines [raised] the water in great abundance from the river, although no one outside could see it."

Diodorus Siculus


The name of the Gardens is actually incorrect.  The name comes from a mistranslation of the Greek word kremastos or the Latin word pensilis, which does not mean  "hanging", but "overhanging", as in the case of a terrace or balcony. This means the gardens were literally spilling over the walls. Of all the Ancient Wonders, the Gardens of Babylon remain the most mysterious. In fact, it's the only Wonder that's very existence has been called into question There are records and contemporary images of each of the other six wonders and even archaeological remains, but none have been found for the Gardens. Most historians believe that members of Alexander the Great's army brought the stories of the gardens back to Greece.  Were they accurate descriptions of a real place or the tall tales of returning soldiers?

     The gardens were said to be located on the east bank of the River Euphrates, about 50 km south of Baghdad, Iraq. King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited for building the legendary Hanging Gardens. The story says that Nebuchadnezzar built these elaborate gardens to please his wife Amytis who had been "brought up in Media (a mountainous region) and had a passion for mountain surroundings".

While the most descriptive accounts of the Gardens come from Greek historians, such as Berossus, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo and Philo of Byzantium, there are no Babylonian records.  However, it is somewhat hard to believe that the Greek historians would include the Gardens among the other wonders without having great confidence in their existence. Archaeologists are still working to find evidence of the Gardens.  Some researchers have recently suggested that the Hanging Gardens were built by Senaherib, not by Nebuchadnezzar II, one hundred years earlier. Because of the political climate of present day Iraq, it has not been feasible to mount extensive excavations of Babylon. It is possible that as life changes in Iraq more can be done to explore it's remains.

Here are some descriptions of  the Gardens from Greek Historians

"The Garden is quadrangular, and each side is four plethra long.  It consists of arched vaults which are located on checkered cube-like foundations… The ascent of the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway..."

"The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns... Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels... These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches... This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators".

 Diodorus tells us it was about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long and more than 80 feet high.

             One has to imagine that such large and lavish gardens built in such a unique manner and in the middle of the desert would have been an awe inspiring sight.

 

 

 

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