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HISTORY AND ORIGINS OF THE GARDENS The Hanging Gardens of Babylon stood as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. According to tradition, they were constructed around 590 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar II in the ancient city of Babylon, near present-day Baghdad. However, the precise location of the gardens remains uncertain, with some historians questioning their existence altogether. The issue of the gardens' whereabouts remains unresolved, and ongoing studies have generated diverse hypotheses. Some even suggest that Babylon might not have housed one of the Seven Wonders, as ancient sources, while describing the gardens, fail to provide a specific location within the city.

The first theory, proposed by German archaeologist Robert Koldewey, who conducted excavations from 1889 to 1917, placed the gardens in the northeast corner of the Southern Palace. Koldewey based his theory on the discovery of a vast structure with barrel-vaulted rooms and fourteen chambers, bordered by the enclosing wall. The finding of a well with holes in one of these chambers was crucial, linked to the water supply system. However, this theory had limitations, given the distance from the Euphrates, the source of irrigation water, and the fact that access to the gardens would have required passing through private rooms and offices. Subsequent excavations suggested that the rooms uncovered by Koldewey were likely storage spaces.

A second theory, proposed by D.J. Wiseman, places the gardens "above and to the north of the large masonry to the west" of the Southern Palace, extending toward the banks of the Euphrates. In the early 1990s, D.W.W. Stevenson presented an alternative thesis, suggesting that the gardens might have been an independent terraced structure, very close to the Southern Palace and probably to the south of it. However, no traces of this structure have been found to date.

Recent studies also introduced a theory advocated by Stephanie Dalley, suggesting that the gardens might not have been in Babylon at all but in the nearby city of Nineveh. Dalley perceives a confusion between Babylon and Nineveh in classical sources, attributing it to the classical authors' failure to see a clear break between Assyrian and Babylonian rule, referring to a generic "kingdom of Assyria" that had merely changed its capital. Furthermore, Babylonian sources do not mention the gardens, while Assyrian sources document significant water works in Nineveh under Sennacherib (668-631 B.C.), along with gardens near the banks of the Khors.

Babylon was surrounded by a double wall interrupted by the Ishtar Gate, adorned with over 120 statues of roaring lions, and through which the main road entered the city. Archaeologist Robert Koldewey discovered vaulted structures above the gate, forming the foundation for the elevated and terraced gardens. Given that using land for purposes other than agriculture was unusual at the time, the garden's design represented a significant cultural undertaking. An elaborate botanical garden featuring flora not native to the region was created, adapted to more humid climates. To irrigate the gardens adequately, an intricate hydraulic system was constructed, capable of lifting water from the river. The terraces for the gardens were entirely built with stone, a fact noted by Herodotus.

The irrigation system attracted the attention of D.W.W. Stevenson, who, relying solely on classical authors' descriptions, speculated that a water-lifting device called a noria was used. This method had traces in the East dating back to the 14th century B.C. In the case of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, two large basins at the base of the garden's staircase received water from the Euphrates through underground conduits. Wooden wheels or clay vessels were connected to the basins. When manually operated, these wheels filled with water and then released it into a collector on the upper level, where the process was repeated until reaching the highest level. A cistern at the top facilitated the redistribution of water through cascading conduits across the entire garden surface, serving both irrigation and ornamental purposes.


When the Greeks beheld the Eastern parks, they were struck and captivated, for their culture, though highly advanced in all the arts, had never produced anything comparable. One of the reasons it is argued that Ancient Greece did not create opulent gardens can be traced back to the democratic life of the polis, which would have frowned upon the development of private gardens as a proclamation of wealth and prosperity. Moreover, the Cretan-Mycenaean culture cherished flowers; indeed, from artifacts, we can infer a centrality of floral decorative motifs, as had been the case in Egyptian culture. For the Greeks, tending to the garden was primarily a feminine activity or one to be pursued during the intervals between wars. Persian influences permeated ancient Greece: by around 350 B.C., gardens adorned the Academy of Athens, and Theophrastus, considered the father of botany, is believed to have inherited Aristotle’s garden.