The Greek historian
Diodorus Siculus gave one of the best
accounts of the site:
The approach to the
Garden sloped like a hillside and
the several parts of the structure
rose from one another tier on tier.
On all this, the earth had been piled…and
was thickly planted with trees of
every kind that, by their great size
and other charm, gave pleasure to
the beholder. The water machines [raised]
the water in great abundance from
the river, although no one outside
could see it.
Other ancient historians
gave additional details:
The Garden is quadrangular,
and each side is four plethra [one
hundred Greek feet] 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 (Strabo).
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 (Philo of Byzantium).
Stone tablets from Nebuchadnezzar’s
reign give detailed descriptions of
the city of Babylonia, its walls,
and the palace, but do not refer to
the Hanging Gardens. Today, some historians
make the case that the Hanging Gardens
of Babylon never actually existed.
Image of a "Hanging
Garden" from an Assyrian tablet.They
stake their claims on the fact that
the warriors in the army of Alexander
the Great were amazed at the immense
prosperity of the thriving city of
Babylon and tended to exaggerate their
experiences greatly. When the soldiers
returned to their stark homeland,
they had incredible stories to relate
about the remarkable gardens, palm
trees, and imposing buildings of rich
and fertile Mesopotamia. This was,
after all, the land of Nebuchadnezzar’s
fabulous palace, the great Ishtar
Gate, the legendary Tower of Babel,
and other pyramid-like ziggurats.
When all of these extraordinary architectural
elements were combined together in
the imagination of the poets, scholars,
and historians of Ancient Greece,
the result was another, although fictional,
World Wonder. Others point to Assyrian
tablets showing raised "hanging"
gardens from the city of Nineveh,
raising the possibility that the Babylonian
gardens may be exaggerated, fanciful
versions of what existed in another
major Mesopotamian city.
Twentieth century archaeologists
began collecting evidence about unsolved
questions concerning the Hanging Gardens:
What was their location? What kind
of irrigation system did it have?
What did the Hanging Gardens actually
look like? These questions have yet
to be fully answered.