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“BABYLON” THE GREAT

1. Sunset in Babylon

Sunset in Babylon

By Raphael Lacoste

Babylon: Ancient Middle Eastern city. The city’s ruins are located about 55 mi (89 km) south of Baghdad, near the modern city of Al-Hillah, Iraq. Babylon was one of the most famous cities in antiquity. Probably first settled in the 3rd millennium BC, it came under the rule of the Amorite kings around 2000 BC. It became the capital of Babylonia and was the chief commercial city of the Tigris and Euphrates river system. Destroyed by Sennacherib in 689 BC, it was later rebuilt. It attained its greatest glory as capital of the Neo-Babylonian empire under Nebuchadrezzar II (r. 605 – c. 561 BC). Alexander the Great, who took the city in 331 BC, died there. Evidence of its topography comes from excavations, cuneiform texts, and descriptions by the Greek historian Herodotus. Most of the ruins are from the city built by Nebuchadrezzar. The largest city in the world at the time, it contained many temples, including the great temple of Marduk with its associated ziggurat, which was apparently the basis for the story of the Tower of Babel. The Hanging Gardens, a simulated hill of vegetation-clad terracing, was one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

2. Ziggurat – Tower of Babel

Babylon was one of a number of cities built by a succession of peoples that lived on the plain starting around 5,500 years ago. There developed a tradition in each city of building a temple in the shape of a stepped pyramid. These temples, or ziggurats, most likely honored a particular god. The people of Mesopotamia believed in many gods and often a city might have several ziggurats. Over time Babylon became the most influential city on the plain and its ziggurat, honoring the god Marduk, was built, destroyed and rebuilt until it was the tallest tower.

The Tower of Babel (Heb.Bãbhel, from Assyro-Babylonian bãb-ili, “gate of God”), was, according to the Old Testament (see Gen. 11:1-9), a tower erected on the plain of Shinar in Babylonia by descendants of Noah. Nimrod’s name is from the verb “let us revolt.” He is said to be a mighty hunter (gibbor tsayidh) in the sight of the Lord, but the language has a dark meaning. He becomes a tyrant or despot leading an organized rebellion against the rule of Yahweh. He hunts not animals, but rather the souls of men. The builders intended the tower to reach to heaven; their presumption, however, angered Jehovah, who interrupted construction by causing among them a previously unknown confusion of languages. He then scattered these people, speaking different languages, over the face of the earth.

The Netherlands (Flanders)

The Netherlands (Flanders)

The story possibly was inspired by the fall of the famous temple-tower of Etemenanki, later restored by King Nabopolassar (r. 626-605 BC) and his son Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylonia. The Genesis account appears to play on the Babylonian word bã b-ili (“gate of God”) and on the Hebrew words Bã bhel (“Babylon”) and bã lãl (“to confuse”). The English words babel and babble are derived from the story.

The ruins of an immense Babylonian ziggurat, or stepped pyramid, have been found near this fabled location and the romantic notion is that these remains are all that is left of the Tower Of Babel. Archaeologists examining the remains of the city of Babylon have found what appears to be the foundation of the tower: a square of earthen embankments some 300 feet on each side. The tower’s most splendid incarnation was probably under King Nebuchadnezzar II who lived from 605-562 BC. The King rebuilt the tower to stand 295 feet high. According to an inscription made by the King the tower was constructed of “baked brick enameled in brilliant blue.” The terraces of the tower may have also been planted with flowers and trees.

A reconstructed ziggurat in Babylon

A reconstructed ziggurat in Babylon

Constructing ziggurats on the Mesopotamian plain was not easy. The area lacks the stone deposits the Egyptians used effectively for their timeless monuments. The wood available is mostly palm, not the best for construction, so the people used what they had in abundance: mud and straw. The bulk of the towers were constructed of crude bricks made by mixing chopped straw with clay and pouring the results into molds. After the bricks were allowed to bake in the sun they were joined in construction by using bitumen, a slimy material imported from the Iranian plateau. 


3. Babylon

 Ruined City of Babylon– New age aerial view

An aerial view of Babylon.

An aerial view of Babylon showing the reconstructed Palace of Nebuchadnezzar, with adjacent helipad (at the top, between the palace and the lake) and trailers for military housing (PHOTO Martin Bailey January 25, 2005)

Some 90 kilometres to the south of modern Bagdhad lie the ruins of ancient Babylon, the original name of which, “bab-ili”, may be translated as “the Gate of the Gods”. For the world at large Babylon ranks as one of the most famous cities of antiquity, renowned alike for its refinement, beauty and magnificence. As a centre of culture and government it flourished for about fifteen centuries, from the arrival of the Amorites ca. 1850 B.C. down to Alexander the Great, who died there in 322 B.C. One of the best known of the city’s early rulers was the great law-giver, Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.).

In classical times the city walls of Babylon were spoken of with admiration and astonishment, while her “Hanging Gardens” were accounted one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar II (605-563 B.C.) Babylon was extensively re-built on an altogether magnificent scale, the city becoming at this period both the most beautiful and the most prosperous of the ancient world. Bisected from north to south by the river Euphrates, the city was surrounded by a moat and by two massive walls, the outer being about 16 kilometres in length, the inner about 8 kilometres. Within the inner city wall were brick- and bitumen-paved Thoroughfares and imposing buildings, of which numerous traces and ruins may still be seen by the visitor today. In particular there is part of Babylon’s great Procession Street which passes through the Ishtar Gate and on towards the site of the city’s huge staged temple tower or “Ziggurat”. On one side of the Procession Street are the ruins of the South Palace (300 x 190 metres) amongst which are to be found those of the famous “Hanging Gardens” mentioned above. To the north of the South Palace are the ruins of the Principal Gate, the broken walls of which consist of baked bricks laid with gypsum mortar. Also within the circuit of the inner wall and surrounded by residential buildings are the temples of Marduk, Ishtar, Gula and Ninurta.

For the past two thousand years the ancient buildings of Babylon have been extensively quarried for their excellent baked bricks. Thus, what survives today is generally only the lower courses of the walls or simply their foundations. Moreover, what survives is threatened by salt and the high local water table. Action is urgentls required to rescue these ruins.

Fotunately there already exist plans and reconstructed drawings on many of Babylon’s principal buildings, even some of which little now remains but their foundations. These plans and drawings were made by German archaeologists who dedicated some seventeen years to the excavation of Babylon before the First World War.

As the product of fifteen centuries of human toil and endeavour Babylon belongs to all people and to all nations. Visitors from all over the world are anxious that something should be done to further the restorations and reconstruction of babylon’s principal buildings, so that the city’s former grandeur may be better appreciated. It is appropriate, we feel, that all countries should assist in this work, not only in recognition of Babylons’ great place in history, but also in recognition of her great cultural importance for everyone.

4.Reconstruction of Babylon’s center in a museum in Berlin.

The Greek Historian

“Babylon, too, lies in a plain; and the circuit of its wall is three hundred and eighty-five stadia. The thickness of its wall is thirty-two feet; the height thereof between the towers is fifty cubits; that of the towers is sixty cubits; and the passage on top of the wall is such that four-horse chariots can easily pass one another; and it is on this account that this and the hanging garden are called one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The garden is quadrangular in shape, and each side is four plethra in length. It consists of arched vaults, which are situated, one after another, on checkered, cube-like foundations. The checkered foundations, which are hollowed out, are covered so deep with earth that they admit of the largest of trees, having been constructed of baked brick and asphalt — the foundations themselves and the vaults and the arches. The ascent to the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway; and alongside these stairs there were screws, through which the water was continually conducted up into the garden from the Euphrates by those appointed for this purpose. For the river, a stadium in width, flows through the middle of the city; and the garden is on the bank of the river

5.Ishtar Gate. (Original)

The Ishtar Pergamon Museum. (Original)

5-i.Ishtar Gate

6. Babylonian Wal Parts

Berlin-Pergamon; Babylonian Wal. Parts of the gate and lions from the Processional Way are in various other museums around the world.

7.Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Image From mxdesign.dk

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon (also known as the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis) and the walls of Babylon (present-day Iraq) were considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. They were both supposedly built by Nebuchadnezzar II around 600 BC .

The Hanging Gardens are extensively documented by Greek historians such as Strabo and Diodorus Siculus, but otherwise there is little evidence for their existence. In fact, there are no Babylonian records of any such gardens having existed. Some (circumstantial) evidence gathered at the excavation of the palace at Babylon has accrued, but does not completely substantiate what look like fanciful descriptions.

Some schools of thought think that through the ages the location may have been confused with gardens that existed at Nineveh as tablets from there clearly showing gardens have been found. Writings on these tablets describe the possible use of something similar to an Archimedes’ screw as a process of raising the water to the required height.

According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up Nebuchadnezzar’s homesick wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the nations. The land she came from, though, was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of the Mesopotamia (a region of southwest Asia) depressing. The king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with rooftop gardens.

The Hanging Gardens probably did not really “hang” in the sense of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek word kremastos or the Latin word pensilis, which means not just “hanging² but “overhanging,” as in the case of a terrace or balcony.

The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in the first century BC, wrote, “It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.”

More recent archaeological excavations at the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq uncovered the foundation of the palace. Other findings include the Vaulted Building with thick walls and an irrigation well near the southern palace. A group of archaeologists surveyed the area of the southern palace and reconstructed the Vaulted Building as the Hanging Gardens.

However, the Greek historian Strabo had stated that the gardens were situated by the River Euphrates. So others argue that the site is too far from the Euphrates to support the theory since the Vaulted Building is several hundreds of meters away.

They reconstructed the site of the palace and located the Gardens in the area stretching from the River to the Palace. On the river banks, recently discovered massive walls 25 m thick may have been stepped to form terraces… the ones described in Greek references.


7-i. Hanging Gardens of Babylon


The King Hammurabi is the most famous king of the Babylonian kingdom. The whole kingdom flourished under his rule. His son Nebuchadnezzar is the one who built the Hanging gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven wonders of world.


Nebuchadnezzar ruled the country for 43 years from 605 BC. He constructed impressive array of temples, palaces and streets. It is being told that he built this garden to please his wife, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king Medes seems to have had a passion for mountainous surroundings. There are some other accounts which say that this wonder of the world was actually built by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis.


The ancient accounts of this hanging gardens (one of the seven wonders of the world) describes the structure to be a stairs like one. The Greek geographer Strabo, describes it as , “the garden consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.”


The irrigation system was supposedly the complex part built on this gardens. This region had very scarce rains. Slaves were used to push the water upwards using some ancient method of irrigation. Of course there must be some exploitation of slave labor to maintain one among the seven wonders of the world. The gardens did not really hang on the roof using cables or ropes. But this name from the sense that it was built on the roof top. Some accounts state that the gardens are 400 by 400 feet and 80 feet high. 

7-ii. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

An artist’s impression of Babylon as it existed anciently. Whether or not the artist’s concept is accurate, it nevertheless conveys the imposing nature of the city and its immensity. It was a prize indeed to any ruler capable of taking it in battle.


Some stories indicate the Hanging Gardens is lavantavam by hundreds of feet above the ground, but archaeological explorations indicate a more modest but still impressive, height. The city of Babylon, under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) should have been a boon to the traveler’s eyes. “In addition to its size,” wrote Herodotus, a historian in 450 BC, “Babylon surpasses in splendor any city in the world.” Herodotus describes: the exterior walls were 90 kilometers in length, 24.30 meters thick and 97.536 meters of height. Wide enough to allow a four-horse chariot to turn back. The inner walls were “not as thick as those outside, but no less strong.” Within the walls were fortresses and temples containing immense statues of solid gold. Rising above the city was the famous Tower of Babel, a temple to the god Marduk that seemed to reach to heaven. While an examination of some archaeological data dicorda Herodotus (the outer walls seem to have only 16 kilometers long and were not as high) His narrative gives us a sense of how the characteristics of the city appeared to those who have visited.

Interestingly enough, however, one of the most spectacular sites in the city is not mentioned by Herodotus: The Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.Accounts indicate that the garden was built by King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the city for 43 years beginning in 605 BC (There is a story less true, says that the gardens were built by the Assyrian Queen Semiramis during the reign of five years beginning in 810 BC). This was the immensity of the city’s power and influence and King Nebuchadnezzar, built a surprising order of temples, streets, palaces and walls. According to accounts, the gardens were built to cheer up the wife of Nebuchadnezzar nostalgic, Amyitis. Amyitis, daughter of the king of the Medes, was married to Nebuchadnezzar to create an alliance between the nations. The land she came, however, was green, rugged and mountainous, and she found the flat, sun-baked terrain of Mesopotamia deprimimente. The king decided to recreate her homeland by building an artificial mountain with gardens.

The Hanging Gardens probably did not remain “really” the sensation of being suspended from cables or ropes. The name comes from an inexact translation of the Greek or Latin kremastos Pensilis does not mean only “suspended” but “overhanging” as in the case of a terrace or balcony. The Greek geographer Strabo, who described the gardens in first century BC, wrote, “consists of large terraces one above another, and supported in the cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees to grow larger. The pillars, domes and terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt.”

“The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and on their side are water machines through which persons are employed, designed expressly for the purpose, to continue taking water from the Euphrates to the garden.” Strabo that it touches, for the ancients, was probably the most amazing part of the garden. Babylon rarely received rain and the garden to survive it would have been irrigated using water from the Euphrates River.

The scheme was, stood in the water so that air could flow down through the terraces and could water the plants at each level. This was probably done by a “chain pump.” A chain pump is: two large wheels, one above the other, connected by a chain. In the current buckets are tied. Under the wheel at the bottom of a pool is the water source. As the wheel is turned, the buckets dip in the pool and pick up water. The chain then lifts them to the upper wheel where the buckets are emptied and are inclined at an upper pool. The chain then carries the empty until refilled.The pool to the top of the gardens could be achieved through the gates into channels that were part of artificial streams to water the gardens. The pump wheel below was attached to an arrow and a crank.Turning the crank gave power to the appliance work.

Construction of the garden was not only complicated to be difficult to carry water to the top, but also because it had to prevent water from destroying it. Whereas stone was hard to get on the plains of Mesopotamia, most of the architecture in Babel utilized brick. The bricks were made of clay mixed with chopped straw and baked in the sun. The bricks were then joined with bitumen, a substance enlodada who acted as a mortar. These bricks quickly dissolved when soaked with water. For most buildings in Babel this was not a problem because rain was very rare. However, the gardens were continually exposed to irrigation and the foundation had to be protected. Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian, stated that the platforms on which the garden was over huge slabs of stone, covered with layers of reed, asphalt and tiles. On top of this was placed a covering with sheets of lead, preventing the water from the land would erode the base.On top of all this land was put in a convenient depth, sufficient for the growth of larger trees. When the land was put and planned, were planted all kinds of trees by the grandeur and beauty charmed the audience.

What was the size of the gardens?

Diodorus tells us that had about 121 feet wide by 121 feet long and more than 24.3 meters in height. Other accounts indicate that the height was equal to the outer city walls. Walls that Herodotus said were 97.5 meters high. In any case the gardens were an amazing sight: a mountain green, leafy, artificial climbing the plain. But in fact exist? After all, Herodotus never mentions it.

8.The Hanging Gardens

Maarten van Heemskerck

Fanciful reconstruction, 19th century, mistakenly attributed to Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574), apparently based on Berossus, c.250 BC (mountain shaped, high walkways) and Philo, c.250 BC, or c.150 BC, or 1st century AD, or 6th century AD (forest of columns, fountains) and Diodorus, c.50 BC (stairways)

9. NEBUCHADNEZZAR IN THE HANGING GARDENS

NEBUCHADNEZZAR IN HANGING GARDENS

the Painting by E. Wallcousins.

In Greek times Babylon was famous for the hanging or terraced gardens of the “new palace”, which had been erected by Nebuchadnezzar II. These occupied a square which was more than a quarter of a mile in circumference. Great stone terraces, resting on arches, rose up like a giant stairway to a height of about three hundred and fifty feet, and the whole structure was strengthened by a surrounding wall over twenty feet in thickness.

So deep were the layers of mould on each terrace that fruit trees were grown amidst the plants of luxuriant foliage and the brilliant Asian flowers. Water for irrigating the gardens was raised from the river by a mechanical contrivance to a great cistern situated on the highest terrace, and it was prevented from leaking out of the soil by layers of reeds and bitumen and sheets of lead.

Spacious apartments, luxuriously furnished and decorated, were constructed in the spaces between the arches and were festooned by flowering creepers. A broad stairway ascended from terrace to terrace.

10. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Picture from the book “The Seven Wonders of the World” by John and Elizabeth Romer


Fruits and flowers… Waterfalls… Gardens hanging from the palace terraces… Exotic animals… This is the picture of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in most people’s minds. It may be surprising to know that they might have never existed except in Greek poets and historians imagination 

Location

Panoramic view over the ancient city of Babylo...

Panoramic view over the ancient city of Babylon, located 85 kilometers south of Baghdad

English: A hilltop view of the ancient city of...

A hilltop view of the ancient city of Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar II, whose life spanned 630-562 B.C., built his hanging gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

On the east bank of the River Euphrates, about 50 km south of BaghdadIraq.

History

The Babylonian kingdom flourished under the rule of the famous King, Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC). It was not until the reign of Naboplashar (625-605 BC) of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty that the Mesopotamian civilization reached its ultimate glory. His son, Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is credited for building the legendary Hanging Gardens. It is said that the Gardens were built by Nebuchadnezzar to please his wife or concubine who had been “brought up in Media and had a passion for mountain surroundings”.

While the most descriptive accounts of the Gardens come from Greek historians such as Berossus and Diodorus Siculus, Babylonian records stay silent on the matter. Tablets from the time of Nebuchadnezzar do not have a single reference to the Hanging Gardens, although descriptions of his palace, the city of Babylon, and the walls are found. Even the historians who give detailed descriptions of the Hanging Gardens never saw them. Modern historians argue that when Alexander’s soldiers reached the fertile land of Mesopotamia and saw Babylon, they were impressed. When they later returned to their rugged homeland, they had stories to tell about the amazing gardens and palm trees at Mesopotamia.. About the palace of Nebuchadnezzar.. About the Tower of Babel and the ziggurats. And it was the imagination of poets and ancient historians that blended all these elements together to produce one of the World Wonders.

Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hamm...

Map showing the Babylonian territory upon Hammurabi’s ascension in 1792 BC and upon his death in 1750 BC

It wasn’t until the twentieth century that some of the mysteries surrounding the HangingGardens were revealed. Archaeologists are still struggling to gather enough evidence before reaching the final conclusions about the location of the Gardens, their irrigation system, and their true appearance.

Description

Detailed descriptions of the Gardens come from ancient Greek sources, including the writings of Strabo and Philo of Byzantium. Here are some excerpts from their accounts:

“The Garden is quadrangular, and each side is four plethra long. It consists of arched vaults which are located on checkered cube-like foundations.. The ascent of the uppermost terrace-roofs is made by a stairway…”

The Hanging Garden has plants cultivated above ground level, and the roots of the trees are embedded in an upper terrace rather than in the earth. The whole mass is supported on stone columns… Streams of water emerging from elevated sources flow down sloping channels… These waters irrigate the whole garden saturating the roots of plants and keeping the whole area moist. Hence the grass is permanently green and the leaves of trees grow firmly attached to supple branches… This is a work of art of royal luxury and its most striking feature is that the labor of cultivation is suspended above the heads of the spectators”.

A copy of a bas relief from the reign of Senna...

A copy of a bas relief from the reign of Sennacherib, depicting sacred gardens thought similar to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

More recent archaeological excavations at the ancient city of Babylon in Iraq uncovered the foundation of the palace. Other findings include the Vaulted Building with thick walls and an irrigation well near the southern palace. A group of archaeologists surveyed the area of the southern palace and reconstructed the Vaulted Building as the Hanging Gardens. However, the Greek historian Strabo had stated that the gardens were situated by the River Euphrates. So others argue that the site is too far from the Euphrates to support the theory since the Vaulted Building is several hundreds of meters away.

They reconstructed the site of the palace and located the Gardens in the area stretching from the River to the Palace. On the river banks, recently discovered massive walls 25 m thick may have been stepped to form terraces… the ones described in Greek references.

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