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The Hanging Garden of Babylon


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The ancient city of Babylon, located east of the Euphrates River near present-day Baghdad, developed in stages and reached its peak of expansion during the Neo-Babylonian dynasty under Nebuchadnezzar II. The city was the capital of a kingdom encompassing a large part of southwest Asia and was the largest city in the known world.

 


More About Hanging Garden : Babylon Introduction : Early History : Babylon History : Topography : Babylonia Period


 

TOPOGRAPHY

 

The topography of Babylon is best known from the occupation levels of the Neo-Babylonian dynasty, as excavated by Robert Koldewey and other German archaeologists just before World War I. At that time the Euphrates divided the city into two unequal parts—the old quarter, with most of the palaces and temples, on the east bank, and the New City on the west bank. A prominent place near the center of the city was occupied by Esagila, the temple of Marduk; just to the north of that was Etemenanki (the ziggurat), a seven-storied edifice sometimes linked in popular legend with the Tower of Babel. A cluster of palaces and fortifications was found at the northwest corner of the old city; the German excavators identified one ruin in this area with the foundations of the Hanging Gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which, according to tradition, Nebuchadnezzar II built for his Median wife. Nearby was located the Ishtar Gate, with its lions and dragons in brightly colored glazed brick. Through it passed the main Processional Way, the route followed by cultic and political leaders for the New Year’s festival ceremonies. Through nine major gates of the massive inner fortification walls passed roads to the principal settlements of Babylonia.

 

 Nebuchadnezzar II

 

The ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II (604-562 BC) is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The greatness of this achievement serves as an indication of the level of ancient Babylonian art and architecture. The Hanging Gardens were built on top of stone arches 23 metres above ground and watered from the Euphrates by a complicated mechanical system. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built by King Nebuchadnezzar II about 600 BC, were a mountainlike series of planted terraces.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were a series of terraces filled with plants. Excavations have found an elaborate tunnel and pulley system that apparently brought water from the ground level to the top terrace.

 Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 bc), greatest king of the neo-Babylonian, or Chaldean,  dynasty, who conquered much of southwestern Asia; known also for his extensive building in the major cities of Babylonia.

 The eldest son of Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar commanded a Babylonian army late in his father's reign and in 605 bc triumphed over Egyptian forces at the decisive Battle of Carchemish in Syria, which made Babylonia the primary military power in the Middle East. After his father's death, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Babylon and ascended the throne on September 7, 605 bc. During the next eight years he campaigned extensively in the west against Syria, Palestine, and Egypt and against the Arabs. On March 16, 597 bc, he captured Jerusalem and took Jehoiachin, king of Judah, and many of his people captive to Babylonia. He was subsequently troubled by major revolts in Babylonia (595 bc) and in Judah (588-587 bc), which were vigorously punished; many more Jews were exiled to Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar also conducted a 13-year siege of the Phoenician city of Tyre and launched an invasion of Egypt in 568 bc. During the latter part of his reign, as the empire of the Medes increased in power to the north and east, Nebuchadnezzar built a wall, known as the Median Wall, in northern Babylonia to keep out the potential invader.

Nebuchadnezzar's conquests brought in much booty and tribute, creating an age of prosperity for Babylonia. He undertook an ambitious construction program, rebuilding the temples in the major cult cities and refurbishing his capital at Babylon with a splendid ziggurat (pyramid temple) as well as other shrines, palaces, fortification walls, and processional ways. Later legend credited him with building one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, for his Median wife Amyitis. Nebuchadnezzar died in early October 562 bc and was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (the biblical Evil-Merodach).

 

 

 More About Hanging Garden : Babylon Introduction : Babylon Early History : Babylon History : Topography : Babylonia Period