T he Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Located on the bank
of the River Euphrates, about 50-km south of the capital of present
day Iraq were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Fruits and flowers...
Draping waterfalls... Gardens hanging from palace terraces. What
could be better?
The Babylonian Kingdom had flourished under rule of the famous
King, Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC). But then during the reign of Naloplashar
(625-605 BC) of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty the civilization of
Mesopotamia regained strength and reached its ultimate glory.
His son, Nebuchadnezzar II is credited for building the legendary
Hanging Gardens. It is said the Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar
to please his wife, Amytis, who missed the lush green and hilly
landscape of her homeland to the north, Persia.
As irrigation was a problem in the scorching region, a "chain
pump" was used to water the plants on each and every level.
The chain pump had two large wheels, one above the other, connected
by a chain. On the chain are hung buckets. Below the bottom wheel
is a pool with the water source (the River Euphrates). As the
wheel is turned, the buckets dip into the pool and pick up water.
The chain then lifts them to the upper wheel, where the buckets
are tipped and dumped into an upper pool. The chain then carries
the empty ones back down to get refilled.
Babylon was one of the wealthiest cities of the ancient world.
It was a center of both learning and commerce, where merchants
came from faraway lands to trade exotic spices and precious goods.
The city reached the height of its power under command of King
Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned from 604-562 BC. But the city's golden
age didn't last for long. In 539 BC the Persians took control
of the city and Babylon lost its independence forever. By 200
BC the city was deserted and left in ruins.
Visitors marveled at the Tower of Babel, a ziggurat that rose
from the center of the city, and a temple devoted to Marduk, the
patron god of Babylon. Nearby were the Hanging Gardens and the
beautiful royal palace.
A massive double wall with eight great gateways encircled the
city. The grand entrance, the magnificent Ishtar Gate, was the
main entrance to Babylon. Dedicated to the goddess Ishtar, it
was covered in glazed blue tiles decorated with pictures of lions
and bulls. There is a reconstruction of Ishtar Gate in the Berlin
Museum. Between the outer battlements ran a raised roadway wide
enough for four-horse chariots to drive along.
Nobody knows exactly where the ancient Hanging Gardens were. Archaeologists
claim that they may have found vaults which formed the base of
the Gardens close to the palace. Who knows?