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    3. Mesopotamia (Assyrian - Babylonian Period)

      This period in the history of humanity bears the name Assyrian and Babylonian culture, begins its rise in the VIII c. B.C. and concludes in the VII c. B.C. During this period Babylon reached the apex of its bloom. Famous Tower of Babel was built with a height of 91 meters. It was a six floor multicoloured structure and contained the Gold Temple of the God Marduk at the apex. The city was guarded by two defensive walls with a width of 6-7 meters. The main gates of city, dedicated to the goddess Ishtar, were a miracle of architecture. The walls of Babylon and its tower are famous, but the Hanging Gardens of Babylon occupied their place as one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, it had gardens on its terraces, grown with the application of a unique technical-engineering water supply system. Cities with the regular arrangement of streets and a system of channels appeared, curvy by-streets were replaced by straight and wide streets. The beautiful, well maintained gardens appeared at the same time as the cities. They belonged to the aristocrats and priests. The elements of landscape design and construction were already being adopted at this time.

      The special feature of this period is the active construction of houses and stepped towers - ziggurats - on the terraces, which at that moment were the special artificially filled platforms, slightly elevated above the surface of the streets (for protection from the floods). This principle of construction was used with the creation of the temple - pyramidal towers, which took the form of stepped towers. Such temples consisted of a series of smoothly diminishing square or rectangular platforms. As a rule the upper platform usually housed a temple. On the protruding parts of the lower platforms the plants were planted on the perimeter into specially designated pits which were filled with special soil.

      The densely packed houses, enclosed by several fortress walls, did not include plants. An exception was the sacred gardens built on the ritual terraces of the stepped towers. Secular gardens on the hills which surrounded the cities differed in terms of the rich composition of the plants, exported from other countries, by regular plan, by gazebos and by pavilions. Being based on a regular plan, caused by irrigating systems, the gardens of Mesopotamia were already not divided into the symmetrical squares, as they were in  Egypt - plants were located more freely, were small in size and were arranged between the habitable houses. Gardens were guarded by high unapproachable walls and were decorated with ponds, sculptures, gazebos, arbours. In the gardens the flowers were planted and beautiful birds lived here.

      Specifically, here in Assyria and Babylon the Hanging Gardens appeared for the first time, marvellous in their beauty according to the eyewitnesses. They were built in the ancient city-state of Babylon, near present-day Iraq in between the Tigris and the Euphrates in the naked sandy plains 90 kilometres from modern Baghdad of around 600 B.C. when Babylon reached its bloom and it became the center of ancient eastern culture. They are sometimes called the Hanging Gardens of Semiramis. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are the most famous ensemble and considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - they were built by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II to please his homesick wife Amitis, who longed for the trees and fragrant plants of her homeland Persia, the king Nebuchadnezzar ordered the construction of unimaginably beautiful gardens. Nebuchadnezzar assembled the best builders and architects and ordered them to build them for his wife without worrying about money. Such beautiful gardens had not been seen before by the ancient world. He ordered his subjects to bring back the strange and distant plants that they may find on their travels, their military marches and trips. 

      The gardens at Nineveh with their rich assortment of trees and bushes can be considered the prototypes of contemporary botanical gardens. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon got special attention. The Hanging Gardens had a pyramidal shape, which was arranged into four stepped terraces, which became narrower each level and were located on the green stepped terraces in the court of southern palace (605-562 B.C.) of Nebuchadnezzar II. A garden was arranged on each terrace on which they grew flowers that had never been seen in  Babylon before and trees in which the birds that had been brought from overseas sat and sang while swans swam on the surface of the ponds the stretched between the gardens. The main garden was arranged on the upper terrace.

      Terraces were connected by spiral staircases. Gardens was located on the north-eastern side of the city walls. Its southern part extended to the palace. The exteriors of the terraces served as galleries and the interiors as grottos for relaxation in the hot hours, decorated with colour glazed tile and frescoes. Servants and musicians also hid here during the hot hours. The terraces were small in size, the roof of the lower terrace was almost level with the walls of city and had a height of 8 m and an area of 45x40m. The second platform with the height of 13m it had an area of 40x30m. The overall height of the gardens above the level of walls was 22m. On the lower terraces they planted trees, and bushes and flowers on the higher ones.

      Gardens on the terraces were grown with the use of a unique technical-engineering water supply system. Through an opening in one of the columns the water of the Euphrates rose by pumps to the upper level of the pyramid, where a pond was located. The water then flowed via small waterfalls downward onto the ledges, watering the plants growing on it. Many slaves watered the garden at all times with the aid of the water-lifting wheels, scooping up water from the Euphrates and from the deep wells (dug out under the first floor of gardens)  with leather buckets. The base of each floor was made of flat stone plates, they were covered with the layer of reeds, flooded with asphalt and covered with sheets of lead which had to withstand the pressure of the soil (on which they planted gardens with big trees) and keep the water from filtering into the lower floor. The bushes, flowers and vines grew and covered the terraces.

      The royal gardens in plains of Babylon seemed miraculous, they provided shade, freshness and the aroma of the strange rare plants, which were brought into Babylon in carts pulled by oxen from around the world. Unusual trees and beautiful flowers bloomed in the gardens. From the side this pyramid was similar to a green, blooming mountain and did not seem like a man made garden, but a mirage in the hot desert. On the terraces the trees and bushes seemingly climbed at the sky, possibly because of this they named them "the Hanging Gardens".

      The Hanging Gardens did not exist very long in their splendour. Even with the heirs of Nebuchadnezzar II Babylon took over and ransacked the Persians headed by Cyrus the Great. In two hundred years the city again underwent seizure and plunder - this time by the Greeks headed by Alexander of Macedon. Aggressors destroyed specialists, who supported in action the unique system of irrigation of the gardens. They did not have means and desire to contain the mass of slaves for the manual irrigation, removal and planting of new plants. Flowers and grasses withered, large trees dried up and stood with naked branches on their high platforms. Time destroyed the terraced supports of platforms.

      One hundred years ago with the excavations of the ancient city archaeologists found deep wells and remainders of powerful terraced structures, this confirmed the existence of suspended gardens - a wonder of the ancient world, which did not survive the wars, invasions and negligence. Evergreen gardens with rare trees, the smelling sweet flowers and freshness in the dusty and hot Babylon are the truly unsurpassed masterpiece of landscape design. Unfortunately, there are no remains of this magnificent structure, nevertheless, the idea of the creation of the stepped gardens, or “the Hanging Gardens”, has proved to be sufficiently fruitful. Later it found its development in the gardens of Persia, Italy, Russia (The Upper Gardens of the Moscow Kremlin at the end of the 17th c.) and in somewhat changed forms reached the present in the form of roof gardens.

      The Hanging Gardens of Semiramis  -  Amitis was the name of the wife of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, for whom the gardens were created, were the prototype of the irregular landscape design style.

      Also in the Assyrian and Babylonian culture there was a skill of surrounding their home with excellent parks as, for example, the expansive park, created by Assyrian king Sargon II in the 8th century B.C. in the new city of Dur-Sharrukin (now Khorsabad). In it many trees brought from other countries were planted: cypresses, cedars, sycamore, willow, poplar, box-tree and some fruit trees. There were very large parks, intended for hunting and horseback riding. These parks are the predecessors the large parks we have today that can contain entire forests and more.