The Hanging Gardens of Babylon evoke a romantic picture of lush greenery and colorful flowers cascading from the sky. The grandeur of their sight must have been awe-inspiring, the magnificence, what a sight to behold. Oh! If only it lived down to our time. Little wonder the ancient World would have considered them one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
However, strange as it seems one of the city’s most spectacular sites was not mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.> Herodotus (/h’rdts/; Ancient Greek: dt, Hrdotos, Attic Greek pronunciation: [h.r.do.tos] ) was a Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus in the Persian Empire (modern-day Bodrum, Turkey ) and lived in the fifth century BC (c. 484–c. 425 BC), a contemporary of Thucydides, Socrates, and Euripides. He is often referred to as “The Father of History”, a title first conferred by Cicero; he was the first historian known to have broken from Homeric tradition to treat historical subjects as a method of investigation—specifically, by collecting his materials systematically and critically, and then arranging them into a historiographic narrative. Where the gardens really hanging as the name ascribes?
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 “remasters”, or the Latin word “pensilis”, which means not just “hanging”, but “overhanging” as in the case of a terrace or balcony. What exactly are hanging gardens? According to the Wikipedia; > Hanging garden (cultivation), a sustainable landscape architecture, an artistic garden or a small urban farm, attached to or built on a wall.
Gift for a Home Sick Queen.
According to one legend, Nebuchadnezzar II who ruled the city for some 43 years starting from 605 BC, built the Hanging Gardens for his Median wife, Queen Amytis. Amytis, daughter of the king of Medes had married Nebuchadnezzar in a bid to further the alliance between the two nations. Amytis was homesick for the land she came from, green and mountainous and found the flat and arid terrain of Babylon depressing. In an effort to cheer her up an elaborate garden; an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens were constructed to mimic the ones in her homeland.
MYTH, LEGEND OR FACT?
Traditionally, the gardens were said to have been built in the ancient city of Babylon, near present-day Hillah, Babil province, in Iraq. The Babylonian priest Berossus, in his writings around 290 BC, later quoted by Josephus, attributed the gardens to a Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II, who ruled between 605 and 562 BC. The location of the complex contradicts where Greek historians placed the Gardens, which was on the banks of the River Euphrates. Notably also and not to be overlooked is the fact that most of the ancient writing was made by Greek historians and most made mention of a Syrian king apart from Josephus. Because of the lack of documentation of them in the chronicles of Babylonian history, many doubt they were ever there. Stephanie Dalley, an Oxford University Assyriologist, thinks that earlier sources were translated incorrectly putting the gardens about 350 miles south of their actual location at Nineveh. King Sennacherib left a number of records describing a luxurious set of gardens he’d built there in conjunction with an extensive irrigation system. In contrast, Nebuchadrezzar makes no mention of gardens in his list of accomplishments at Babylon.
Dalley also argues that the name “Babylon” which means “Gate of the Gods” was a title that could be applied to several Mesopotamian cities. Sennacherib apparently renamed his city gates after gods suggesting that he wished Nineveh to be considered “a Babylon” too, creating confusion. Recent discoveries include evidence of excavation of a vast system of aqueducts inscribed to Sennacherib, which Dalley proposes were part of an 80-kilometer (50 mi) series of canals, dams, and aqueducts used to carry water to Nineveh with water-raising screws used to raise it to the upper levels of the gardens.
This copy of a bas-relief from the North Palace of Ashurbanipal (669–631 BC) at Nineveh shows a luxurious garden watered by an aqueduct. True, some believe that the Hanging Gardens never existed, however, it is not outside of the realm of possibility that they were real. The technology of the time would have allowed for their construction. This, however, does not explain the lack of definitive documentation. Why then would later historians spend so much time and effort describing this masterpiece of ancient history if it did not exist in some physical form at least? If they did exist, what happened to the gardens? There is a report that they were destroyed by an earthquake in the second century B.C. If so, the remains, mostly made of mud-brick, probably slowly eroded away with the infrequent rains. Whatever the fate of the gardens was, we can only wonder if Queen Amyitis was happy with her fantastic present, or if she continued to long for the green mountains of her distant homeland.