They are considered one of the seven wonders of the ancient world but questions regarding their exact location, how and why it was built and whether they existed at all are still a mystery.

It has been said that they were one of the most magnificent examples of opulence and beauty of ancient Babylon, which was an area in Iraq. Though they have been written about by many historians, today one can only look at the ruins of the area in which they were supposed to have been. Excavations at the site at which historians put its location do, in some way, suggest an interesting site but do not give sufficient proof that it was where these fabled gardens were.

Known for their magnificent beauty, they were called ‘hanging’ gardens due to the fact that they were made in such a way that terraces upon terraces had beautiful trees and plants of exotic beauty. They were built in a region that was a sandy desert, the most unfriendly site for a garden and yet it is said to have had the most luxuriant and delicate flowering plants. The way the plants hung from the terraces covering them made the whole scene look like an entire cliff-like garden hanging in midair.

The mystery as to how these plants were given water, as a lot of it would have been required to keep them flourishing and accomplishing such a feat in the desert would have been a most daunting, if not a near impossible, task has archaeologists making their own assumptions. But excavations have led archaeologists to think that perhaps such a difficult feat might have been accomplished by clever designing and engineering of pumps and buckets moving along a chain pulley to the topmost terrace, making the water cascade to the lower levels, watering them constantly. Since no such device has been found at the excavation site, the method of watering the plants is still a mystery.

Greek historians like Strabo and Diodurus Siculus have written about them and also given a detailed description, but researchers argue that since there were many gardens at another ancient site of Nineveh and stone tablets do show lovely gardens there, The Hanging Gardens Of Babylon might just be either confused with other gardens or might not have existed as they have been described. A Chaldean priest named Berossus, in the late 4th century BCE, wrote the first accounts of the Hanging Gardens. Greek historians are said to have later borrowed and elaborated on the subject.

Excavations around the banks of the Euphrates River have revealed the construction of thick walls measuring 25 metres.

Some seeds have also been found which might indicate a garden there in ancient times. But mere seeds are not enough to prove that it is the site of the Hanging Gardens.

If indeed the Hanging Gardens did exist, who made them? Ancient writers indicate that it was built by King Nebuchadnezzar II, around 600 BCE in the region, which was called Mesopotamia. The area of the gardens has been said to be 50 miles from Baghdad in Iraq. The reason for the extensive project was that the King’s wife, Amyitis, hailed from the lush kingdom of Iran and was quite homesick and sad for the greener pastures of her homeland. So how else to please his wife than to construct a marvel of magnificent beauty in the barren desert of Iraq — a garden containing the fragrant smell of roses and lilies to almond and cypress trees! Another interesting aspect was that the gardens were raised by stone columns, which supported the terraces, and thus the trees and plants took roots in the stones, tiles and asphalt.

Then there is another twist to the tale. It is argued that the Hanging Gardens were never built by King Nebuchadnezzar II but by an Assyrian Queen named Semiramis, around 810 BCE to 805 BCE, and the other name for the Hanging Gardens could be the Gardens of Semiramis.

But some strongly believe that the Hanging Gardens are just a fantasy tale by ancient writers exaggerating the many gardens of ancient times and confusing them with any garden that might have been over-rated by soldiers who were already starved for better locales while coming back from distant battles.

The problem with the Babylonian site is that though stone tablets recovered from the rule of Nebuchadnezzar do mention elaborate descriptions of the palace, walls and the rest of the city of Babylonia, they do not give any record of the Hanging Gardens. The area was destroyed by earthquakes and all that remains are the ruins. So where were the Hanging Gardens exactly and did they actually exist is indeed a mystery.

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