What Were the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, because according to descriptions, they reflect an amazing feat of architecture and engineering. According to written literature about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, it appears that they were built in a series of terraces on the shores of the Euphrates River approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) from modern day Baghdad, Iraq. The profusion of plants in the gardens would have appeared to hang from the assorted terraces and balconies, perhaps creating the illusion of being inside a lush mountain jungle.

According to written literature about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, it appears that they were built in a series of terraces on the shores of the Euphrates River approximately 50 miles from modern day Baghdad, Iraq.
According to written literature about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, it appears that they were built in a series of terraces on the shores of the Euphrates River approximately 50 miles from modern day Baghdad, Iraq.

However, archaeologists dispute the existence of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Very little literature from Babylonian society records anything like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which appear in the writing of historians like Herodotus, who wrote about them in 450 BC. While pleasure gardens certainly existed along the banks of the Euphrates and were irrigated using ingenious pulley systems, it is unlikely that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, at least as most people imagine them, every really existed. Archaeological evidence from the site does not support the existence of massive gardens constructed with huge, solid walls and blocks of stone, and modern interpretations of Herodotus suggest that he was describing the City as a whole, rather than a series of gardens.

The historian Herodotus wrote about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in 450 BC.
The historian Herodotus wrote about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in 450 BC.

In classical literature, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were described as a towering edifice of plants, terraces, structures, and pillars which loomed over the banks of the river for miles. According to Herodotus, the gardens had immensely thick walls, and were lined with floors of stone which would withstand the saturation of irrigation systems. Legend has it that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built by Nebuchadnezzar II for a wife who came from the mountains, and missed the varied terrain and plant life of her home.

Whether or not the Hanging Gardens of Babylon existed on the scale which ancient historians described, Babylon was probably a green city, filled with a wide variety of gardens which certainly incorporated varied levels of terrain. In addition, most Babylonian homes probably had rooftop gardens for decoration, food, and to help cool the house with hanging leafy vines. Descriptions of these smaller pleasure gardens may have led to a state of confusion. The irrigation effort would also have been considerable, as the dry weather of that region does not generate enough rain to sustain elaborate gardens. Gardeners would have had to lift water from the river somehow, perhaps laying the groundwork for aqueducts and other more complex water moving systems developed by cultures which had contact with Babylon.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon125940

what were they built out of?

anon78173

I would love to know more about this magnificent palace that I do believe existed because there is no reason not to believe.

anon51098

I would love to learn more about the hanging gardens of babylon.

anon42393

I know this isn't a question but it's an answer, Cicero recorded it first.

anon41710

Yeh pretty good but who recorded it first?

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