The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced

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The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon is an exciting story of detection involving legends, expert decipherment of ancient texts, and a vivid description of a little-known civilization. Recognized in ancient times as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the legendary Hanging Garden of Babylon and its location have long been steeped in mystery and puzzling myths.

In this remarkable volume Stephanie Dalley, a world expert on ancient Babylonian language, exposes new ...

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The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon: An Elusive World Wonder Traced

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The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon is an exciting story of detection involving legends, expert decipherment of ancient texts, and a vivid description of a little-known civilization. Recognized in ancient times as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the legendary Hanging Garden of Babylon and its location have long been steeped in mystery and puzzling myths.

In this remarkable volume Stephanie Dalley, a world expert on ancient Babylonian language, exposes new evidence and clarifies all the known material about this enigmatic World Wonder. Placing the Garden within a tradition of royal patronage, Dalley describes how the decipherment of an original text and its link to sculpture in the British Museum has enabled her to pin down where and by which king the Garden was laid out, and to describe in detail what it looked like. Through this dramatic and fascinating reconstruction of the Garden, Dalley also follows its influence on later garden design.

Unscrambling layer by layer the many stories that have built up around the Garden, including the parts played by Semiramis and Nebuchadnezzar, Dalley shows why this Garden deserves its place alongside the Pyramids and the Colossus of Rhodes as one of the most astonishing technical achievements of the ancient world.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Was the Hanging Garden actually located in Babylon? Was the ancient wonder merely a fiction, or was it a real place, built by an ancient king? In this carefully researched book, Dalley, an expert on ancient Mesopotamia, combs through archaeological evidence, cuneiform tablets, and literary clues to address these and other vexing mysteries. Until recently, most scholars believed Josephus’s first-century C.E. account stating that the garden was indeed located in Babylon and built by King Nebuchadnezzar. Yet after sorting through numerous ancient texts describing the construction and design of the gardens, Dalley concludes that the garden was in Assyria and was built by the Assyrian King Sennacherib, perhaps around 700 B.C.E. In meticulous detail, she demonstrates how Sennacherib used a gravity-defying water screw (aka Archimedes’ screw, a technology still used today) to carry water uphill to irrigate the plants. Dalley convincingly argues that the gardens, set directly next to the palace, symbolized the king’s wisdom, “his control over nature... his role as a propagator of fertility.” Dalley’s fascinating look at doubts concerning the garden’s existence, as well as the ongoing speculation regarding its design and construction, brings to life this ancient man-made paradise. 90 illus. & 8 color plates. (Aug.)
Library Journal
One of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World, the Hanging Garden of Babylon—the author is unusual in using the singular—has for centuries eluded scholars and archaeologists. Did it exist only in legend? If it actually existed, where was it? Assyriologist Dalley (honorary research fellow, Somerville Coll., Univ. of Oxford) explores these mysteries. She notes the lack of evidence, in ancient Babylonian sources, for its existence, then looks at the great details recorded by classic Greek and Roman writers, e.g., references to Sennacherib's water-raising screw and to inspecting ancient Assyrian texts and sculptures. The author concludes that accurate details about this ancient wonder of artistry and engineering have long been lost owing to confusion over the names of rulers and cities, misplaced trust in the word of ancient writers, and out-of-date theories of when ancient cities were destroyed and abandoned. Here, she presents her own theory. VERDICT Sure to be controversial for its new position on where the hanging garden was located and who created it, this well-researched book will delight lovers of history with its new insights about an ancient wonder.—Melissa Aho, Univ. of Minnesota Bio-Medical Lib., Minneapolis
Kirkus Reviews
A scholar and authority on cuneiform presents evidence for the design and location of one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The gardens weren't actually hanging, and they weren't in the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar, writes Dalley, editor and author of numerous scholarly works on Mesopotamia (Myths from Mesopotamia, 1989, etc.). Instead, she argues that they were actually in Nineveh, created at the command of Sennacherib around 700 B.C. Her evidence is principally textual, based on her profound understanding of ancient writing, architecture and even personality. After describing how she became interested in the topic, she notes how efforts to locate the gardens in Babylon have long failed. She then summarizes the classical authors who mentioned the gardens (from Diodorus Siculus to Josephus and others), concluding they were created on artificial terraces, were shaped like an amphitheater and required machinery to bring water to the site. (She includes a couple of speculative drawings.) Dalley then spends time with the invention of the screw (necessary for drawing water to the site), arguing that Archimedes was probably a latecomer to the design. After a chapter on water management in the desert, she describes--in a chapter as dense as an untended garden--how confusions have arisen over the centuries about names and locations. Although her writing is generally scholarly, she does crack wise occasionally--commenting, for example, about the sweet breath of the gods: "no halitosis in heaven," she quips. Her penultimate chapter deals with a problem: If Nineveh was razed in 612 B.C., how did the Greeks and others learn about the gardens? She argues convincingly for a continuing human presence at the site, despite other accounts, and she lists some lingering speculations. Deeply researched and rigorously argued--and certain to raise both hopes and objections.
From the Publisher

"[Dalley] makes a compelling case. Scholars will doubtless find matter for debate, but her central argument rings true." --The Sunday Times

"[A] learned and never less than gripping study... There remain plenty of scholars who still stick by the traditional attribution of the wonder to Nebuchadnezzar, but I suspect that, with the publication of this book, Dalley will be adding to her already heavy-weight roster of supporters... [When] the inadequacies of a received tradition are as glaring as they clearly are in the case of the Hanging Garden, it is a cause for celebration that there are scholars of the calibre of Stephanie Dalley to propose a convincing alternative." --Literary Review

"[A] bold, clear and immensely interesting new book. Every good summer needs a controversy and Dalley's high-class book and sheer likeability have now given us an excellent one." --Financial Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199662265
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 691,268
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Dalley is an Honorary Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford, a Member of Wolfson College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. With degrees in Assyriology from the Universities of Cambridge and London, her academic career has specialized in the study of ancient cuneiform texts and she has worked on archaeological excavations in Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Jordan. She has written several books on the myths and culture of ancient Mesopotamia, with special reference to their impact on later civilizations, many of which have been translated into Arabic, Italian, and Japanese. She lives in Oxford with her husband and maintains a large garden.

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Table of Contents

List of Colour Plates
List of Figures
General Map
1. Drawing a Blank in Babylon
2. Classical Writers and their Testimony
3. Three Pictures, and Archimedes
4. Sennacherib's Great Invention
5. Engineering for Water Management
6. Confusion of Names
7. The Unrivalled Palace, the Queen and the Garden
8. Symbolism and Imitators
9. Defeat and Revival: Nineveh after 612 BC
Appendix: The Section of Prism Inscription Describing the Palace and Garden

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 7, 2014

    Excellent Historical Resource

    It follows the PBS program exactly. It answers many of my questions on this historical feature.

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