Ancient Mysteries

The whereabouts of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the fabled Hanging Garden of Babylon – has been one of the great mysteries from antiquity. The inability of archaeologists to find traces of it among Babylon's ancient remains led some even to doubt its existence. Now a British academic has amassed a wealth of textual evidence to show that the garden was instead created at Nineveh, 300 miles from Babylon, in the early 7th century BC. After 18 years of study, Stephanie Dalley of Oxford University has concluded that the garden was built by the Assyrians in the north of Mesopotamia – in modern Iraq – rather than by their great enemies the Babylonians in the south. She believes her research shows that the feat of engineering and artistry was achieved by the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, rather than the Babylonian king. The evidence presented by Dalley, an expert in ancient Middle Eastern languages, emerged from deciphering Babylonian and Assyrian cuneiform scripts and reinterpreting later Greek and Roman texts. They included a 7th-century BC Assyrian inscription that, she discovered, had been mistranslated in the 1920s, reducing passages to "absolute nonsense".

 

She was astonished to find Sennacherib's own description of an "unrivalled palace" and a "wonder for all peoples".


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