The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were located in what is now the country of Iran. Accounts indicate that this magnificent garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the city Babylon for 4 years starting in 605 BC. The gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar's homesick wife, Amyitis. The land she came from was green, rugged and mountainous, She found the flat, sun-baked terrain of the Mesopotamia plain where Babylon sat, depressing. The king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.
The Hanging Gardens probably did not really "hang" in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from a 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 climb to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water pumps. Slaves were appointed just to continually raising water to the garden. Babylon rarely received rain and for the garden to survive it would have had to been irrigated by using water from the nearby Euphrates River. That meant lifting the water far into the air so it could flow down through the terraces, watering the plants at each level. This was probably done by means of a "chain pump."
A chain pump is two large wheels, one above the other, connected by a chain. On the chain hang buckets. Below the bottom wheel is a pool with the water source. 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 be refilled.
The pool at the top of the gardens could then be released by gates into channels which acted as artificial streams to water the gardens. The pump wheel below was attached to a shaft and a handle. By turning the handle slaves provided the power to run the contraption.
Construction of the garden was not only complicated by deciding how to get water up to the top, but also by having to avoid having the liquid ruin the foundation once the water was released. Since stone was difficult to get on the Mesopotamian plain, most of the architecture was brick. The bricks were made 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 Babylon 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.
Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, stated that the platforms on which the garden stood consisted of huge slabs of stone covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. Over this was put "a covering with sheets of lead, that the wet which drenched through the earth might not rot the foundation. Upon all these was laid soil, sufficient for the growth of the greatest trees. When the soil was laid even and smooth, it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators."
How big were the gardens? Diodorus tells us they were about 400 feet wide by 400 feet long (larger than a football field) and more than 80 feet high (8 stories). Other accounts indicate the height was equal to the outer city walls. Walls that Herodotus said were 320 feet high. Either way, can we say "enormous"!!
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