The legendary ‘Hanging Garden of Babylon’ has since ancient times been recognised as one of the Seven Wonders of the World – but no trace of it has ever been found.
After 20 years of research, Dr Stephanie Dalley may have discovered why.
Dr Dalley, an honorary research fellow at Somerville College and part of the Oriental Institute at Oxford University, believes the garden was actually created at Nineveh, 300 miles from Babylon, in the early seventh century BC. She argues that it was built by the Assyrians in the north of Mesopotamia – modern-day Iraq – at the instigation of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib.
One piece of evidence is a record of description by Sennacherib of an ‘unrivalled palace’ and a ‘wonder for all peoples’. He describes the marvel of a water-raising screw made using a new method of casting bronze.
A recent excavation near Nineveh found traces of an aqueduct with the inscription: ‘Sennacherib king of the world … Over a great distance I had a watercourse directed to the environs of Nineveh‘.
Dr Dalley also believes the landscapes of Babylon and Nineveh support her conclusion – the flat countryside around Babylon would have made it impossible to deliver water to the raised gardens as described in classical sources.
Dr Dalley suggests that after Assyria conquered Babylon in 689BC, the Assyrian capital Nineveh may have been seen as the ‘New Babylon’, which could have created the confusion. Earlier research showed that after Sennacherib conquered Babylon, he renamed all the gates of Nineveh after the names used for Babylon’s city gates.
Moreover, Dr Dalley believes the Hanging Garden may in fact have been depicted in a bas-relief from Sennacherib’s palace in Nineveh, which shows trees growing on a roofed colonnade as described in classical accounts of the ‘Babylon’ gardens (see header image).
‘It has taken many years to find the evidence to demonstrate that the gardens and associated system of aqueducts and canals were built by Sennacherib at Nineveh and not by Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon,’ Dr Dalley says.
‘For the first time it can be shown that the Hanging Gardens really did exist.’