The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, or Ninevah?

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The fabled Hanging Gardens were quoted as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by many different ancient writers. Irrigated with inventions attributed to Archimedes, the Hanging Gardens were a feat of engineering that created roof-top flora for the ancient inhabitants to enjoy for the first time. This fanciful garden would have put the elegance and beauty of the outdoors in reach of wealthy aristocrats without leaving the protection of their homes. Unfortunately, no archeological evidence of the Gardens have been found despite many attempts to trace where they were originally placed. There are several historical debates surrounding the Hanging Gardens concerning where they were located and how they were constructed.

The first mention of the Hanging Gardens is from a source that no longer survives. More recent writers have quoted earlier writers who, in turn, were quoting even older writers. Josephus (20 C.E.), quoted Berossus (220 B.C.E.), and attributed the creation of the Gardens to Nebuchadnezzar II. (605-562 B.C.E.).  According to Josephus, Nebuchadnezzar II wanted to placate his homesick wife and surround her with gardens more similar to her mountainous homeland. Strabo, writing a geographical history about the same time as Josephus, placed the Hanging Gardens in Babylon as well, describing many geographical features that coincide with that area.

Each ancient source had their own agendas for mentioning the Gardens and each relied on a different, even older original source that no longer exists. This makes it difficult to determine which source is the most accurate. No archeological evidence of the Hanging Gardens has yet surfaced, though it may be lying silently in wait for future excavation beneath the waters of the Euphrates.

The irrigation of the Gardens is described by multiple sources in detail, which indicates that ancient peoples had an advanced irrigation system using machines hidden within the walls to pull water to higher elevations. In 1993, while studying the vast irrigation systems of the Persian Empire, Dr. Stephanie Dalley presented an alternate theory as to where the fabled Hanging Gardens were located.

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Although Archimedes is given credit for the irrigation advances that make this extravagant garden possible, Archimedes predates the Gardens, leading some to believe that particular invention attributed to him was used earlier than previously thought.

Dr. Dalley argues that ancient writers, all with their own agendas for quoting each other, may have misunderstood the names of ancient cities. She argues that the earliest writer, Strabo, may have been stretching the truth a bit to flatter his Babylonian patron and place the Gardens in his homeland. After all, if the Hanging Gardens were such a marvelous wonder in Babylon, Herodotus, who was a contemporary of that time, would certainly have mentioned them in his writings.

Dr. Dalley stated that the city of Babylon was often interchangeable with the city of Nineveh, and suggested the Gardens may, in fact, be there. As further evidence, Dr. Dalley has used an image at the palace of Nineveh depicting Hanging Gardens that match the descriptions of those ancient authors, as well as writings from the King at Nineveh detailing how the gardens were irrigated from the main river.

Although current excavations have been placed on hold due to violence in the area, it seems clear that the city of Nineveh is a probable location for the Seventh Wonder of the World as yet unseen by modern eyes.

Bibliography

Hanging Gardens of Babylon. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon

Hanging gardens were a living carpet. (2005). New Scientist, 185(2483), 15. Retrieved March 7, 2015

Heemskerck, M. v. (n.d.). Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon.jpg

Henzell, J. (2013, April 9). Academic unearths new lead to fabled Babylon gardens. pp. 1-2. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/academic-unearths-new-lead-to-fabled-babylon-gardens#full

Josephus. (1917-1932). Berossus: From Josephus, &c. (H. L. Jones, Trans.) Harvard University Press. Retrieved from http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/af/af05.htm (and) http://www.plinia.net/wonders/gardens/hg4berossus.html

Oleson, S. D. (2003, January). Sennacherib, Archimedes, and the Water Screw: The Context of Invention in the Ancient World. Technology and Culture, 44(1), 1-26. Retrieved March 8, 2015, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25148052

Omary, A. Y. (2014, March). Hanging Gardens of Babylon or Hanging Gardens of Ninewa A Comparative Study of Their Landscape Spatial Characteristics. Al-Rafadain Engineering Journal, 22(2), 1-15. Retrieved March 7, 2015

Polleket. (n.d.). Archimedean screw. Sculpture by Tony Cragg in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. Retrieved from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schroef_van_Archimedes.jpg

Strabo. (1932). The Geography of Strabo. VII. (H. L. Jones, Trans.) Loeb Classical Library edition. Retrieved March 7, 2015, from http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Strabo/16A*.html

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