Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon




      Babylon was a city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, the remains of which are found in present-day Al Hillah, Babil Province, Iraq, about 85 kilometers (55 mi) south of Baghdad. All that remains of the original ancient famed city of Babylon today is a mound, or tell, of broken mud-brick buildings and debris in the fertile Mesopotamian plain between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, in Iraq.The Hanging Gardens of Babylon one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,was located near present-day Al Hillah, Babil in Iraq.They are sometimes referred to as the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis.


They were built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC. According to accounts, the gardens were built to please his homesick wife, Amytis daughter of the king of the Medes, who longed for the trees and fragrant plants of her homeland Persia.

The lush Hanging Gardens are extensively documented by Greek historians such as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus.

The Hanging Gardens probably did not really "hang" in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek word kremastos or the Latin word pensilis, which mean not just "hanging", but "overhanging" as in the case of a terrace or balcony.

The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BC, wrote, "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."

How big were the gardens? Diodorus tells us it was about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long and more than 80 feet high. Other accounts indicate the height was equal to the outer city walls. Walls that Herodotus said were 320 feet high.

Herodotus claimed the outer walls were 56 miles in length, 80 feet thick and 320 feet high. Inside the walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famous Tower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk, that seemed to reach to the heavens.

Construction of the garden wasn't only complicated by getting the water up to the top, but also by having to avoid having the liquid ruin the foundation once it was released. Since stone was difficult to get on the Mesopotamian plain, most of the architecture in Babel utilized brick. The bricks were composed of clay mixed with chopped straw and baked in the sun. The bricks were then joined with bitumen, a slimy substance, which acted as a mortar. These bricks quickly dissolved when soaked with water. For most buildings in Babel this wasn't a problem because rain was so rare. However, the gardens were continually exposed to irrigation and the foundation had to be protected.
The hanging gardens are said to have survived more than five hundred years, until they were destroyed by an Earthquake in the first century B.C

There is some controversy as to whether the Hanging Gardens were an actual creation or a poetic creation due to the lack of documentation of them in the chronicles of Babylonian history. Moreover for centuries before that the ancient city of Babel was nothing but a mound of muddy debris, nothing visible remained of its architecture. This was one of the questions that occurred to German archaeologist Robert Koldewey in 1899.Since 1899 Robert Koldewey dug on the Babel site for some fourteen years and unearthed many of its features including the outer walls, inner walls, foundation of the Tower of Babel, Nebuchadnezzar's palaces and the wide processional roadway which passed through the heart of the city. The foundations that Koldewey discovered measured some 100 by 150 feet. Smaller than the measurements described by ancient historians, but still impressive.
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