The Mysterious Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Lion of Babylon | Courtesy of Jan van der Crabben

In 225 B.C.E., the Greek writer Philo of Byzantium wrote On The Seven Wonders, and this early literary work highlighted the greatest man-made entities at the time. Most of the seven ancient wonders of the world are still shrouded in mystery and beauty. Yet, when it comes to these ancient wonders, the most mysterious is the hanging gardens of Babylon.

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the lighthouse at Alexandria. The Hanging Gardens, the last Ancient Wonder of the world, called Babylon its home. Babylon rose to power for the second time from 600 to 550 B.C.E., as the Chaldean Empire under the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. His kingdom grew to be thousands of miles wide, and King Nebuchadnezzar secured his capital city of Bablyon with large walls. These protective walls were believed to be multiple feet thick and impenetrable.1

On these walls were beautiful shrubs and flowers. The legend of how these flowers bloomed over the wall began with the king. Nebuchadnezzar was proud of his creation, but one of his wives still longed for more. She mourned for her homeland on top of a mountain and wished to see the beauty of her home once again. When the king heard this, he ordered for the flowers and shrubs to be brought and then placed on top of his great wall. Exotic flowers and greenery brought a wonderful fragrance to the kingdom. The walls were irrigated using new technology. Waterwheels and pumps were installed, truly making the gardens a scientific and artistic masterpiece.2

Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Courtesy of Martin Heemskerck. published by Ancient History Encyclopedia.
Hanging Gardens of Babylon | Courtesy of Martin Heemskerck | Published by Ancient History Encyclopedia.

What we can know about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is one the most challenging of projects for modern scholars. This is due to the lack of evidence that we have about whether these gardens ever even existed in Babylon so many thousands of years ago. Much of the literature on the Hanging Gardens was written by second-hand accounts in the ancient world. Historians and archaeologists have searched for the gardens in the ruins of Babylon, but nothing concrete has been found. There are many theories about the actual location of the gardens; the leading theory comes from scholar Stephanie Dalley, a researcher from Oxford University in England. She believes that the Hanging Gardens were not in Babylon at all, but rather in Nineveh.

Dalley is an expert in ancient Mesopotamian languages. The new translations of texts from the reign of King Sennacherib of Nineveh state that there was a large beautiful garden in Nineveh that was irrigated by an aqueduct. The texts describe a water-raising screw made of bronze. The descriptions resemble that of other ancient writers’ descriptions of the Hanging Gardens, and as such, there could have been a misunderstanding in translation in subsequent years. Dalley explains that the conquering of Babylon by the Assyrians gave them the nickname of Nineveh or “New Babylon.”3

The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World still have many mysteries connected to them. Yet, the most mysterious is that of Babylon’s Hanging Gardens. Many have been skeptical that they may have never existed. Now, new evidence brings hope that more about the Gardens may yet be known, and a new understanding of the wonder of ancient civilizations may come to light.4

  1. Jerry Bentley, Herbert F. Zieglar, and Heather E. Streets, Traditions and Encounters, a Brief Global History. 4th ed. Vol. 1. (Boston: McGraw Hill Higher Education, 2008), 12.
  2. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 2009, s.v. “The Seven Wonders,” by Joshua J. Mark.
  3.  Stephanie Dalley, “Garden History,” Ancient Mesopotamian Gardens and the Identification of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon Resolved, vol. 21, (February 2009): 7.
  4. Stephanie Dalley, “Garden History,” Ancient Mesopotamian Gardens and the Identification of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon Resolved, vol. 21, (February 2009): 7.
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38 Comments

  • This article is very cool and interesting and I really like the topic of the article. I remember learning about the hanging gardens when I was younger and thinking how cool it must have been to see them. For this to become one of the wonders of the world even though it has never even been found is truly an amazing thing. I found it very interesting that researchers don’t think that the gardens were even in Babylon.

  • The stories of Ancient Greece have always intrigued me, so I was really excited while reading this article. It is crazy to think that these Hanging Gardens might have never existed. However, if they did exist, then I can only imagine how breathtaking the scenery must have been for those who got to see the landscape and greenery. Hopefully, more research is put into figuring out if this garden existed or not.

  • Nice article. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon must have been quite extraordinary that is if they existed at all. I think that it is most extraordinary that Kingdom of Egypt was home to two of the ancient wonders of the world. That to me speaks to their immense wealth that they enjoyed, especially at the city of Alexandria which must have been a truly spectacular city. It is entirely possible that these gardens may never have existed and we may never really know.

  • I find this subject really interesting as it is uncertain that the Hanging Gardens ever even existed. There is not enough evidence to say that it did exist but there are too many accounts of its existence to ignore completely. This puts historians in an interesting spot as to the existence of the Hanging Gardens. hopefully, new evidence will come to light that can put this argument to rest.

  • It’s kind of wild to hear about these kind of ancient stories only to find out that they actually exist in real life! Almost like a kind of fantasy turned reality thing to me as I never really thought that these hanging gardens actually existed at all! And if they did exist I certainly expected them to be in Babylon, unlike where they actually turned out to be of course.

  • It’s crazy how beautiful structures like the seven wonders of the world came to be and no one really knows how or why or where some of them are. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were apparently never found but research says it was because it was probably not in Babylon at all. The world has come such a long way and were just now discovering all of its mysteries.

  • I can not imagine how beautiful the gardens must have been, and how great the air in the smelled because of all the flowers and other flora in the gardens. Every day must have felt like a perfect spring day. It is a shame no one has ever found it. I hope Stephanie Dalley’s hunch about the location of the Hanging Gardens has some truth behind it because if the Hanging Gardens are ever discovered in my lifetime, visiting the ruins will shoot straight to the top of my bucket list.

  • How interesting that in an attempt to track down the mysterious hanging gardens of Babylon Stephanie Dalley found that the gardens were not in Babylon at all. As we know, stories get told from generation to generation and along the way details get lost. A version of that seems to have taken place in regard to the hanging gardens and their existence.

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