In ancient Babylon (known as Iraq today, not far from the city of Baghdad) the King Nebuchadnezzar had a dilemma on his hands. He had married Amyitis, who was the daughter of the King of Medes, in order to bring both of their nations together. Yet Amyitis was homesick for the fertile soils of her homeland and Babylon was very hot, dry and desert-like. To cheer her up, Nebuchadnezzar commissioned the construction of an array of ‘hanging’ gardens, on terraces within the city’s walls.
Although they are called the ‘hanging gardens’ the plants and trees imported from Medes were much more likely to have overhung the terraces and grown up from them instead. Because these terraces reached up on the sides of mountains, walking alongside them may have given the illusion that they were hanging above the citizen’s heads. Great measures were taken to insure the trees and plants remained well-watered and a team of employees were there at all times to transport water from the river Euphrates on to the top terrace of the gardens, so that the water then trickled down to the lower levels.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is perhaps the least well documented of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, perhaps because it is one of the oldest, although the Great Pyramid of Giza came well before. One thing we can be sure of, is that the Hanging Gardens only survived for around 100 years until they were destroyed by war.
Robert Koldewey, a nineteenth century German archaeologist was the man who found the outer walls of the city of Babylon and even excavated where the cellar of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon may have been. He also found a room with holes large enough to contain the chain pumps that would have irrigated the plants and trees in the gardens, although many other archaeologists argue that this room is too far away from the river Euphrates to have been able to function adequately.
Although we cannot be sure of who the actual inventor was, where they were from or what their name was, we should give credit to the person or team of inventors who discovered the chain pump. Without this design, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon would have most likely dried out and died, leaving Queen Amyitis living in a city still very far removed from the climate she was so desperately pining for at home.
Where it is Today:
The walls of the city of Babylon were destroyed just one century after the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were constructed, and with the gardens being the most delicate structure of all, the plants, trees and grasses died. The foundations for the gardens survived until the 2nd century BC, when they were rendered dysfunctional by a series of severe earthquakes.
As a result this means that the site where the gardens once hung can be visited, in the current city of Al Hillah, Iraq. However, there are very few remains of where the gardens actually were and there is a lot of controversy between archaeologists as to where the gardens actually lay. Unlike many of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, unfortunately we cannot visit excavated remains kept in museums either.
It was fifth century BC historian Herodotus who documented much of what he saw of the gardens at Babylon, although it’s widely believed that he exaggerated some parts. The basic structure for the hanging gardens were, however, still around in the first century BC when historian Strabo was alive to comment on them and as a result gave modern day archaeologists and historians a way to reconstruct what they may have looked like and how they may have worked. Diodorus Siculus also documented details of the hanging gardens, stating that they were made with stone slabs with tile, asphalt and reed covering them.
Nobody can be one hundred percent sure of where the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were originally constructed, but it is possible to visit the approximate site and the cellar of the gardens today.