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The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

From the beginning of time, there have been people, places and things that could not be explained and inspired awe in the hearts and minds of many. These wonders of the world, as they are called, have continued to captivate even in today’s highly evolved world. Much mystery still surrounds many of these ancient wonders, but perhaps none more so than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Located in the ancient city of Babylon, which is today’s modern Iraq, the Hanging Gardens were constructed around 600 B.C. to serve as the royal gardens. The name Hanging Gardens is a bit misleading, because it is believed by most experts the gardens did not literally hang over the city. Rather, they were arranged on a structure built to resemble a mountain that was estimated to be 80 feet high. Known as one of the original 7 wonders of the world, they were thought to be built by King Nebuchadnezzar as a gift to his wife Amyitis. His wife, who was from Medes, was supposedly homesick for the beautiful mountains and lush greenery that was part of her homeland. Finding herself depressed with the flat land and desert-like conditions of her new home, her husband decided to re-create her homeland through the Hanging Gardens.

Along with an array of temples, palaces, walls and streets the Hanging Gardens were at the time considered an engineering feat unlike any previously seen. However, rather than literally hanging the Gardens were built to resemble terraces or balconies, with one level raised above another. Geographers of that time described pillars big enough to allow the biggest trees in the world to be planted in them, along with a variety of vegetation and flowers the likes of which had never been seen before. The mountain itself, constructed of baked brick and asphalt and waterproofed with lead, had vast staircases ascending to its top. At every level were workers, whose only purpose was to continually raise water from the Euphrates River and use it to keep the Gardens alive.

The ability to keep the Gardens watered was not only the most impressive feat then but now as well. However, with limited engineering ability it was considered an amazing feat to get water that high. Keeping the Gardens hydrated naturally by rain was an impossibility, since the region rarely received rain. For the Gardens to survive, a sophisticated irrigation system had to be designed and put into place. According to most experts familiar with ancient engineering techniques, the most likely way the Gardens were kept irrigated was through the use of a chain pump. Containing two large wheels connected by a chain, it would have had buckets hung on the chain that were continually dipped into the Euphrates River below, then raised to the upper wheel. The buckets of water would have then been tipped over, allowing the water to flow freely from one level to another like streams or waterfalls.

While there has been some question as to whether this member of the 7 wonders of the world actually existed in Babylon or nearby cities such as Nineveh, there is little doubt that a magnificent structure was part of Babylon. While many archaeologists have conducted expeditions in the area and have explored the ancient ruins of Babylon, there is still little verifiable evidence the Gardens existed. However, archaeologists such as Robert Koldewey of Germany were convinced they had found the ruins of the Hanging Gardens. While excavating Babylon, he discovered large rooms with stone arch ceilings. Knowing ancient writings claimed the Hanging Gardens had stone arch ceilings, he believed he found proof of its existence. Yet then and now doubt still lingers. While ancient records tell of an earthquake in the second century B.C. destroying the Hanging Gardens, we may never know the true story of this incredible feat of engineering conceived by one man out of love for his wife.