The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
According to legend, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, considered one of the
7 Ancient Wonders of the World, were built in the 6th century BCE by King Nebuchadnezzar II for his homesick wife, Amytis.
As a Persian princess, Amytis missed the wooded mountains of her youth and thus Nebuchadnezzar built her an oasis in the desert, a building covered with exotic trees and plants, tiered so that it resembled a mountain. The only problem is that archaeologists are not sure that the Hanging Gardens ever really existed.
The city of Babylon was founded around 2300 BCE, or even earlier, near the Euphra-tes River just south of the modern city of Baghdad in Iraq. Since it was located in the desert, it was built almost entirely out of mud-dried bricks. Since bricks are so easily broken, the city was destroyed a number of times in its history.
In the 7th century BCE, Babylonians revolted against their Assyrian ruler. In an attempt to make an example of them, Assyrian King Sennacherib razed the city of Babylon, completely destroying it. 8 years later, King Sennacherib was assassinated by his three sons. Interestingly, one of these sons ordered the reconstruction of Babylon.
It wasn't long before Babylon was once again flourishing and known as a center of learning and culture. It was Nebuchadnezzar's father, King Nabopolassar, that liberated Babylon from Assyrian rule. When Nebuchadnezzar II became king in 605 BCE, he was handed a healthy realm, but he wanted more.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted to expand his kingdom in order to make it one of the most powerful city-states of the time. He fought the Egyptians and the Assyrians and won.
He also made an alliance with the king of Media by marrying his daughter.
Nebuchadnezzar, during the course of his 43-year reign, built an enormous ziggurat, the temple of Marduk (Marduk was Babylon's patron god). He also built a massive wall around the city, said to be 24m thick, wide enough for four-horse chariots to race on. These walls were so large and grand, especially the Ishtar Gate, that they too were considered one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World -- until they were bumped off the list by the Lighthouse in Alexandria.
Despite these other awesome creations, it was the Hanging Gardens that captured people's imagination and remained one of the Wonders of the Ancient World.
It may seem surprising how little we know about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
First, we don't know exactly where it was located. It is said to have been placed close to the Euphrates River for access to water and yet no archeological evidence has been found to prove its exact location. It remains the only Ancient Wonder whose location has not yet been found.
It is believed that the Hanging Gardens was a tall building, built upon stone (extremely rare for the area), that in some way resembled a mountain, perhaps by having multiple terraces. Located on top of and overhanging the walls (hence the term "hanging" gardens) were numerous and varied plants and trees. Keeping these exotic plants alive in a desert took a massive amount of water. Thus, it is said, some sort of engine pumped water up through the building from either a well located below or directly from the river.
A new theory, proposed by Dr. Stephanie Dalley of Oxford University, states that there was a mistake made in the past and that the Hanging Gardens were not located in Babylon; instead, they were located in the northern Assyrian city of Ninevah, 550kms from Babylon, and were built by King Sennacherib.
According to Dalley, scholars believe the garden would have required about 300 tons of water each day. However, archaeological evidence shows us exactly how he irrigated such an enormous landscape. Satellite images reveal a canal system approximately 100kms long that ran from the mountains to Nineveh. This system diverted about half of the river and routed the water to the capital city through the Jerwan Aqueduct, which consisted of about two million stones. Portions of this aqueduct still stand.
Writers who came during the Hellenic Age gave descriptions that bear similarities: the machinery that hoisted water, the rise like a theater, the stone pillars, the variety of plants and trees.
Thanks to Dr. Dalley and other archaeologists, there are more clues today that hint at the prior existence of a wondrous garden, not in Babylon, but Nineveh. Whether or not it was the Hanging Garden that made the “Top Seven” list of ancient wonders, we may never know.