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The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon Essay, Research Paper

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the most controversial wonders of the world, simply

because their existence can not be proved or denied. Many early historians talked about the

Gardens, many did not. They today would lay inside of the great nation of Iraq, so archeological

research is rather difficult for obvious reasons, the site is said to be 50 miles south of present day

Baghdad. Their existence will probably never be proven or denied. In fact, all we know about

the Gardens is based on myths, so neither I nor anyone can be truly right when talking about


Legend has it that the Gardens were built by King Nebuchadnezzar II to please his favorite

wife named Amytis. Amytis was lonely for her fertile homeland of Media, and the king built the

Gardens to alleviate her homesickness. There is another story about the creation of the Gardens,

this story says that the Gardens were built by Assyrian Queen Semiramis during her five year reign

starting in 810 BC, but this story is pretty much forgotten. The lands of Babylon were flat and

desert like, not a mountain for hundreds of miles, and completely lacking of vegetation. The

Hanging Gardens were a green mountain of life rising from the barren desert.

The actual appearance of the Gardens is much disputed as well. Berossus, a Babylonian

priest of about 200 BC described the Gardens as a brick terrace about 400ft square and around

75ft above the ground. Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian states the measurements of the

Gardens to be at about 400 by 400ft and over 80ft tall. Oddly enough, tablets from the time of

Nebuchadnezzar never mention the Gardens. In fact, the Babylonians never really commented on

the Gardens, all of that work was left up to the Greeks, suck as Strabo and Philo. Modern

historians now say that when Alexander?s soldiers reached Mesopotamia that they brought back

stories of Babylon?s greatness. They told stories of the Gardens and palm trees, of

Nebuchadnezzar?s palace, of the Tower of Babel and the Ziggurats, and of the city walls. These

stories were circulated around, and through the imagination of poets and scribes, the story, or

even the story of the existence of one of the wonders of the world came to be. Almost everyone

that wrote about the Gardens can not lay claim to ever seeing them.

The city of Babylon (gate of god) has a pretty interesting history it?s self. All that remains

of a city that was once the largest in the world is a large area of ruins on the East bank of the

Euphrates river. It was the capital of Babylonia in the second and first melennia BC. It profited

greatly because of the fact that it was the hub of over land trade routes between the Persian Gulf

and the Mediterranean sea. Babylon was first mentioned in documents dating to the third

millennium BC. At around 2200 BC it was the site of a temple, and controlled by the nearby city

of Ur. By 1894 BC, Babylon was an independent city state, when the Amorite Sumu-abum

founded their dynasty there. This dynasty reached its climax under Hammurabi, but in 1595 BC

the city was over taken by Hittites, and with that it became subject to the Kassite dynasty, which

lasted from 1590-1155 BC. The Kassites took over all of southern Mesopotamia, and made

Babylon the capital of Babylonia, making it the administrative center for a large kingdom. Later,

around the 12th century BC it became a religious center when its chief god, Marduk was elevated

to the top of the Mesopotamian pantheon. The Kassite dynasty collapsed under pressure from the

Elamites off to the east, after that Babylon was governed by several short-lived dynasties.

Nabopolassar founded the Neo-babylonian dynasty, which his son Nebuchadnezzar II

enlarged until his empire covered much of southwest Asia. Babylon was refurbished with new

temples and palace buildings, disgustingly large walls, and the Hanging Gardens. At this point in

time the city covered over 2500 acres, making it the largest known city in the world. This empire

didn?t last for long, though. Cyrus the Great captured Babylon and incorporated it into his new

empire of Persia. During Persian control, Babylon was home to the royal family. In 482 BC, a

revolt was lead by Xerxes to over come the Persians, as a symbol of their victory, they melted the

statue of Marduk. Alexander the Great captured the city in 330 BC and had plans to rebuild it

into the capital of his vast empire. He died before he could carry out his plans. After 312 BC,

Babylon was used as a capital city by the Seleucid dynasty set up by Alexander?s successors, but

Babylon?s usage as a capital was temporary, once the real capital of the Seleucid dynasty was

built, most of the inhabitants of Babylon moved there, and the city almost disappeared before the

coming of Islam in the 7th century AD.

The Hanging Gardens didn?t really hang, that term just comes from the loose translation of

the Greek word kremastos, or the Latin word pensilis. These two words mean not just hanging,

but overhanging, like in the case of a terrace or balcony, which is what the Gardens were. A

Greek geographer named Strabo wrote in the early first century BC that,

?It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped

pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The

pillars, the vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt. The ascent to the

highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons,

appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in the raising water from the

Euphrates into the garden.? (http://www.unmuseum.mus.pa.us/hangg.htm Lee Krystek) His

associate Philo stated that, ?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


The Gardens were irrigated by means of a large chain pump. Heres how it works: There

is a well of water at the bottom of something, and you need to get that water to the top

continuously. A large continous chain is run from the well, to the top of what needs irrigation

(the Gardens), and at this point it goes around a wheel. It continues back down to the bottom,

where it is wrapped around another wheel. Attached to the chain are buckets which collect water

at the bottom, then empty it into a large collecting pool at the top. Thus, one wheel is cranked by

slaves to power the contraption. At the top of the Garden there was a large pool of water, from

this ran several streams of water, these in turn branched off into more streams, and proceeded

down the side of the Gardens. Water reached all the plants on the Garden in this manor.

The Gardens were constructed from mostly mud bricks. These bricks were made up of

clay mixed with chopped up straw, and these were then baked in the sun. This is how all

buildings were made in Babylon, the only flaw with this design is that the bricks dissolve in water.

Because of this, the Gardens were built upon large stone slabs, which are extremely rare in Babel.

The bricks were covered with a protective layer of reeds, asphalt, and tiles.

In 1899 a German archaeologist named Robert Koldewey went to the site of ancient

Babylon. He was there for 14 years. During his stay, he discovered a basement with fourteen

large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Only two locations in the city had architecture like this, the

north wall of the northern citadel, and the Hanging Gardens. The northern wall of the Citadel had

been previously found, so it seams that Koldeway found the Hanging Gardens. He later found a

room with three large, strange holes in the floor, this is a feature reported by Diodorus. The

foundations discovered by Koldeway measured about 100 by 150ft. This is far smaller than the

dimensions given by ancient historians, but is still impressive none the less The one problem with

these ruins in question is that Strabo states that the Gardens were right on the Euphrates river, the

ruins found by Koldeway were sever hundred meters from the river at least. Was Strabo wrong?

Has the river moved? Or is this just not the Hanging Gardens? We may never know.

There are seven official wonders of the Ancient world, they include The Statue of Zeus,

The Temple of Artemis, The Mausoleum, The Colossus, The Lighthouse, the Pyramids, and the

Hanging Gardens. However, there is an eight, unofficial wonder, the walls of the city of Babylon.

There are almost as many stories about these walls as there are about the Gardens. Herodotus

clamed that the outer walls of the city were 56 miles in length, 80ft thick, and 320ft high. He says

that the outer wall was wide enough for a four horse chariot to turn on. They were described as

having been covered with glazed tile and having multiple large brass gates along their length.

Actual archeological finds show that the outer walls were only about 10 miles long, and not nearly

as high.

We will probably never know whether the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the seven

wonders of the ancient world, ever existed. There is reasonable evidence in existance that they

were real, but stories of the Gardens are quite exaggerated. Archeological research is hindered

that the ancient site lies in one of the greatest countries of the modern world Iraq. What puzzles

modern historians is the way in which no one from the time that the Gardens were built

commented on them, and almost all documentation on them was from people who never actually

saw them. The truth may for ever be buried in time.

Works Cited Page

Microsoft Encarta ?95 ?Hanging Gardens Of Babylon? John A. Brinkman

http://www3.islandnet.com/`bedford/sw-han.html Bonnie Bedford, 1995, 1996, 1997

http://www.mmmpcc.org/jerrywalkosz/seven/wonder2.htm No author listed

http://hellas.fwm-sol-dev.com/seven/gardens/htm No author listed

http://www.fgsd.winnipeg.mb.ca/vmc/swaweb/cc/ccswow3.htm No author listed

http://pharos.by.edu/Egypt/Wonders/gardens.html Alaa K. Ashmawy 1995, 1997

http://unmuseum.mus.pa.us/hangg.htm Lee Krystek 1998

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