Tag Archive | Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar II: A Villain or Hero?

Nebuchadnezzar II is one of the most reputed rulers of the ancient world. He is a famous Near Eastern monarch. There are about 4 Jewish scriptures, 10 Rabbinic commentaries, several Arabic, Greek and Latin writings upon the life and times of this great monarch. He surely created a great impact upon his times. Many of the above mentioned sources depict him as a god like figure while the Jewish and Biblical depict him as an archetypical villain.

 

Nebuchadnezzar II a Figure who is portrayed in negative light in Bible

He appears as Nebuchadnezzar in the Latin and Greek writings, but the Akkadian and Babylonian versions spell him as Nebuchadrezzar. His name Nebu means son of or boundaries. Perhaps Nebu was taken from his father’s name which was Nabopolassar. There were atleast five other famous Babylonians who had Nabu in their names including Nebuchadnezzar I who was the ruler of Second Dynasty of Isin from 1124-03 BC. There are disparate and limited materials about the life of Nebuchadnezzar II. It is known that Neo-Babylonian Empire replaced the empire of Assyria in 612 BC under Nabopolassar. The kingdom was built with a hybrid of people, one such group were the Chaldeans from Southern Mesopotamia. Resources tell us that Nebuchadnezzar’s family descended from the Chaldeans. Later, Nebu went onto marry a Median Princess which was an arrangement meant to keep security among the major powers of his times.

 

Nebuchadnezzar's Palace near Babylon

Nebuchadnezzar II accompanied his father on various military campaigns at Carchemish (which was a major frontier city on the Euphrates River) against the Egyptians during 608-7 BC. After a while his after returned to Babylon, but Nebuchanezzar stayed on and fought the forces of Pharaoh Neco. Soon the Egyptian army was defeated and vast areas of Syria, Phoenicia and Judaea were captured. He marched forward, but news of his father’s death interrupted his plans. He had to hurry back to Babylon and ascended the throne. In 601 BC he had victories across Levant and other cities throughout the region. All the defeated Kings were asked to pay tributes to Nebuchadnezzar. In 587 BC the city of Jerusalem was surrounded and besieged by Nebuchadnezzar. On July 30, 587 BC the Judean King was defeated. Judean King, his family and other citizens were deported. Only the poor peasants were left behind in the city. All the treasures and trappings of Jerusalem Temple were exported to Babylon. This incident made Nebuchadnezzar II a villain in the Bible. Bible also claims that he destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem at a later date. He also imprisoned all the leading citizens of Jerusalem.

 

Bible states that Nebuchadnezzar II destroyed Temple of Jerusalem, which is false

But sources reveal that Nebuchadnezzar was a liberal king. He let the Jews practice their faith. Also city of Jerusalem was kept in healthy state, how else would Jews reconstitute themselves in this city 50 years later? Even famous Jews such as Jeremiah counselled all Jews to help Nebuchadnezzar rather than dislike him.

 

Nebuchadnezzar II ordered the construction of Hanging Gardens of Babylon

After the Jerusalem he tried to invade Egypt, but was not successful. In his later years he devoted time to public works. He constructed at least 12 cities and decorated his capital. There were various social welfare tasks taken up by the king. He restored temple of Madruk with a tower which is popularly associated as Tower of Babel. He is also deemed as the creator of Hanging Gardens of Babylon, whivch was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Writings from Nebuchadnezzar II’s times suggest that he was a skilled administrator as well as military general. He created the Neo Babylonian Empire and took it to the pinnacle of success.

 

Analysing all the facts it is evident that Bible has portrayed Nebuchadnezzar in wrong light. He was a great ruler and a hero to his subjects.

 

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Is Hanging Gardens of Babylon a Truth or Myth?

Hanging Gardens of Babylon were considered as one of the seven wonders in the ancient world. The location of this wonder has been described as 50 miles south of Baghdad (in the present day city of Al Hillah in Iraq). According to historical writings it was a gift by King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar II to please his home sick queen Amytis of Media. She had been craving for her home settings such as the mountainous and lush landscape of Persia. There seems to be a mystery in the creation of Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Portrait of hanging Gardens of Babylon

Description of the Hanging Gardens

There are different descriptions regarding the size of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Heredotus’s account claims that the outer walls of this monument were 80 feet thick, 320 feet high and 56 miles in length. Another Greek historian Diodorus has stated that the Garden was 100 feet long, and 100 feet wide and was built in the form of tiers so that it resembled theatre. There are other impressive descriptions of the Garden.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon situated beside the Euphrates

How could fresh water from the Euphrates feed the Gardens?

There are contradictions regarding how water was supplied to keep the plants alive. Some claim that Archimedes screw was used pushing the water up to the vegetation. While some other historians believe there were chains attached with two wheels where buckets were tied and the water was pulled up. There were high stone slabs erected in the gardens to stop soil erosion. But then again such large stones were scarce in Babylon. Thus many feel that the name Hanging Garden might have been a result of wrong Greek translation. The real meaning should have been overhanging gardens.

Ground Breaking Engineering went into Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Did the Hanging Gardens Really Exist?

One of the raging controversies among the researchers is whether this ancient wonder really existed or not. If Hanging Gardens really existed there would be some written accounts by the local residents. Herodotus who was a noted historian from Babylon has extensively written about the beauty of this city but in none of his writings can we find the mention of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Most descriptions of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon have been written by Greek historians such as Diodorus and Strabo, who never visited Babylon. There is no mention of the Hanging Gardens in the official records of Babylon during those times. The credit of Nebuchadnezzar II who had been said to have created the Hanging Gardens is under question. Many researchers propose that the Gardens were built by Sennacherib who was the ruler of Assyria from 705 BC to 681 BC.

Nebuchadnezzar II Viewing the Hanging Gardens

So how did the Hanging Gardens of Babylon come to be known?

Many researchers claim that it was the invading armies of Alexander the Great who had all praises for the beauty and splendour of Mesopotamia spread such a word. They viewed the Tower of Babel and described it as a picturesque garden. The accounts kept on piling from person to person and finally it became a wonder.

Though another group of archaeologists feel that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon could have existed but the desert swallowed it. Till date the exact location or any signs testifying the actual existence of Hanging Gardens of Babylon has not been found.

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