History of the World: Setting the Bar Really High for Valentine's Day

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Happy Monday! Today, we make you feel really bad about only getting your spouse roses and/or candy for Valentine's Day... Nebuchadnezzar got his wife one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. Hope you enjoy another excerpt from the HOTW!

gardens

Nebuchadnezzar had a problem with his beautiful young queen Amyitis, and unfortunately, this meant he had a political problem too. Amyitis was a princess from Medea (in modern-day Iran) and the Babylonian king had married her to cement an alliance with the Medes. But Amyitis complained that the Mesopotamian desert was depressing; she missed the greenery and mountain streams of her homeland. So Nebuchadnezzar brought the mountains to her.

Most of what we know about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon is based on a sketchy descriptions in ancient sources, including its distinctive name, which sounds a bit weird to modern ears (from a distance, the gardens probably appeared to be suspended or "hanging" in midair).

The gardens were built to an impressive height, resembling a mountain; in fact, that was the whole point. The Greek historian and geographer Strabo described the structure in the following way: "It consists of vaulted terraces raised one above another, and resting upon cube-shaped pillars. These are hollow and filled with earth to allow trees of the largest size to be planted. The pillars, the vaults, and the terraces are constructed of baked brick and asphalt." Another Greek writer, Diodorus Siculus, added that "it was planted with all sorts of trees, which both for greatness and beauty might delight the spectators."

So how big were the gardens? Diodorus Siculus claimed they were four hundred feet on a side and eighty feet tall, making them one of the tallest structures in the ancient world. Small streams and waterfalls snaked everywhere, watering the greenery and providing the pleasant sound of running water. According to Strabo, getting the water to the top was a rather labor-intensive process: "The ascent to the highest story is by stairs, and at their side are water engines, by means of which persons, appointed expressly for the purpose, are continually employed in raising water from the Euphrates into the garden."

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October 12, 2008 - 8:08pm
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