The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

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The Second Wonder of the World

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Seven Wonders of the World along with the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.

The Hanging Gardens are believed to have been located in what is now Al Hillah, in Iraq. The Hanging Gardend are traditionally considered to be the next greatest wonder after the Pyramids.

Background

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are traditionally believed to have been built by King Nebuchadnezzar II in 600 BC. It is believed that they were built for his wife, Queen Amytist of Media. Amystis, likely Persian, longed for the fragrant trees and flowers of her homeland. The Hanging Gardens are traditionally said to have been destroyed in an earthquake in the second century BC..(Foster, Karen Polinger (1998). “Gardens of Eden: Flora and Fauna in the Ancient Near East”. Transformations of Middle Eastern Natural Environments: Legacies and Lessons: 320-329.)

The Ancient Sources

Numerous written accounts of the Hanging Gardens have survived to the present day. The best accounts are believed to be those written by the Greek historians Strabo and Diodorus.

Strabo

According to Strabo, who left a detailed description of what the Hanging Gardens may have looked like, the Gardens were built around a large open square. Strabo went on to describe the upper terraces, which were accessed by a staircase. He wrote that they were supported by vaults and that these vaults, in turn, rested on cube-shaped foundation stones.

Strabo’s description of the Hanging Gardens concluded with a clue as to their location, which he said was on the bank of the Euphrates River.(Strabo.The Geography of Strabo Vol.VII.Loeb Classics Library.1932. Pg.199-200)

Diodorus

The ancient historian Diodorus also wrote about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Like Strabo, Diodorus claimed that the Gardens were built around a large open square. However, unlike Strabo, Diodorus was much more exact in his description, claiming that the central square around which the Garden were built was 100 feet long by 100 feet wide. Diodorus also described the layout of the Gardens as being roughly similar to the tiers of a theatre.

He described how the arches under the terraces were designed in such a way as to carry the weight of the garden above, which he claimed was 75 feet tall, as high as the city walls. Diodorus also gave a detailed description of how the Garden itself was constructed. The bottom layer was composed of stone roof beams approximately 16 feet long. On top of this was a layer of reeds and thick tar. On top of this was a lead lining, the purpose of which was to prevent water from getting in between the joints in the underlying stone and causing water damage. Finally, there was a thick layer of top soil. According to Diodorus, this layer was thick enough to support the tallest of trees.(Siculus, Diosorus. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Retrieved. Mar.7/09)

Finally, both Strabo and Diodorus described the use of numerous Archimedes screws, turned by slaves and used to pump river water into an extensive plumbing system that carried to water all of the terraces in the Hanging Gardens.

Modern Controversy

More recently, there has been controversy regarding the actual existence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This controversy is based on the fact that there is very little solid evidence for the existence of the Hanging Gardens in Babylonian history.

Instead it is now believed that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon as they are described by Strabo and Diodorus are a fictional creation that has since become confused with the ornamental gardens built by King Sennacherib of Assyria after he assumed the throne in 705 BC.(The Seven Wonders of the World. History Channel.2007.120 mins.)

The copyright of the article The Hanging Gardens of Babylon in Buildings is owned by Terry Long. Permission to republish The Hanging Gardens of Babylon in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
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