The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are another one of the ancient world’s seven wonders. The city of Babylon, according to ancient Greek historian Herodotus, was the most splendorous in the world. Herodotus stated the outer city walls were 80 feet thick as well as 320 feet in height and stretched for a total length of 56 miles. Babylon was also protected by strong inner walls. Inside of the walled city were several temples and fortresses which housed numerous solid-gold statues as well as the Tower of Babel, which was a temple built to honour the god Marduk.

Herodotus’ claims were later challenged by modern-day historians who stated the walls weren’t as high as he said and were only about 10 miles in length. But what surprised the historians the most is that Herodotus failed to mention the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were one of the city’s most impressive sights.

It’s believed King Nebuchadnezzar originally built the gardens when he began his 43-year rule of the city back in 605 BC. However, some people believe they were actually built by Semiramis, an Assyrian Queen, who ruled Babylon in 810 for five years. King Nebuchadnezzar built an assortment of streets, temples, walls, and palaces, and this is why most people believe he built the gardens as a way to cheer up Amyitis, his homesick wife.

the-hanging-gardens-of-babylonAmyitis’ father was the king of the Medes and married King Nebuchadnezzar as a way to form an alliance and bond between the two powerful nations. However, Amyitis’ homeland was filled with rugged, mountainous, and green landscapes and she found Babylon to be flat and depressing. Legend has it that her husband decided to create the extraordinary gardens as a way to recreate her homeland and lift her spirits. He did this by constructing overhanging rooftop gardens on a man-made mountain.

A Greek geographer named Strabo described the amazing gardens back in the first century BC as a series of raised terraces that were placed on top of each other while resting hollow earth-filled on pillars. Large trees were planted in the pillars and they were built out of baked asphalt and brick, just like the terraces and vaults were. People reached the top of the gardens by stairs and water was raised from the Euphrates River to nourish the garden, perhaps by some form of pumping system.

It was reported that the gardens were 400 feet wide and 400 feet long and anywhere between 80 to 320 feet in height. For all of the descriptions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, some historians argue they didn’t really exist or they were actually created in about 700 BC in the city of Nineveh. In 1899 a German archaeologist named Robert Koldewey explored the site of Babylon for about 14 years and discovered many of the ancient features, such as the inner and outer walls as well as, palaces, and the foundation for the Tower of Babel.

During the excavation, Koldewey unearthed a basement that held 14 large rooms that had stone arch ceilings. According to ancient historical records, it was believed that there were only two Babylon locations that were made out of stone. One of these was the Northern Citadel’s north wall and the other was the Hanging Gardens. Since the Citadel’s wall had been discovered already and was indeed made of stone, Koldewey figured he had discovered the gardens’ cellar.

After further excavating, he found more evidence of the gardens, but the measurements were about 100 by 150 feet, smaller than the original measurements given. In addition, some archaeologists say the location Koldewey discovered was too far from the Euphrates, making it difficult to irrigate the gardens from it.

Nobody really knows if the gardens really existed and if they did, what happened to them. Some people believe a second-century BC earthquake destroyed them and the remains simply eroded away over the years.