Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Temple of E-sagila, Bel Merodach, Tower of Babel
” … In Greek times Babylon was famous for the hanging or terraced gardens of the “new palace,” which had been erected by Nebuchadnezzar II.
These occupied a square which was more than a quarter of a mile in circumference. Great stone terraces, resting on arches, rose up like a giant stairway to a height of about three hundred and fifty feet, and the whole structure was strengthened by a surrounding wall over twenty feet in thickness.
So deep were the layers of mould on each terrace that fruit trees were grown amidst the plants of luxuriant foliage and the brilliant Asian flowers. Water for irrigating the gardens was raised from the river by a mechanical contrivance to a great cistern situated on the highest terrace, and it was prevented from leaking out of the soil by layers of reeds and bitumen and sheets of lead.
Spacious apartments, luxuriously furnished and decorated, were constructed in the spaces between the arches and were festooned by flowering creepers. A broad stairway ascended from terrace to terrace.
The old palace stood in a square nearly four miles in circumference, and was strongly protected by three walls, which were decorated by sculptures in low relief, representing battle scenes and scenes of the chase and royal ceremonies. Winged bulls with human heads guarded the main entrance.
Another architectural feature of the city was E-sagila, the temple of Bel Merodach, known to the Greeks as “Jupiter-Belus.” The high wall which enclosed it had gates of solid brass. “In the middle of the precinct,” wrote Herodotus,
“there was a tower of solid masonry, a furlong in length and breadth, upon which was raised a second tower, and on that a third, and so on up to eight.
The ascent to the top is on the outside, by a path which winds round all the towers. When one is about halfway up, one finds a resting-place and seats, where persons are wont to sit some time on their way to the summit.
On the topmost tower there is a spacious temple, and inside the temple stands a couch of unusual size, richly adorned, with a golden table by its side.
There is no statue of any kind set up in the place, nor is the chamber occupied of nights by anyone but a single native woman, who, as the Chaldaeans, the priests of this god, affirm, is chosen for himself by the deity out of all the women of the land.”
A woman who was the “wife of Amon” also slept in that god’s temple at Thebes in Egypt. A similar custom was observed in Lycia.
“Below, in the same precinct,” continued Herodotus, “there is a second temple, in which is a sitting figure of Jupiter, all of gold. Before the figure stands a large golden table, and the throne whereon it sits, and the base on which the throne is placed, are likewise of pure gold….
Outside the temple are two altars, one of solid gold, on which it is only lawful to offer sucklings; the other, a common altar, but of great size, on which the full-grown animals are sacrificed.
It is also on the great altar that the Chaldaeans burn the frankincense, which is offered to the amount of a thousand talents’ weight, every year, at the festival of the god.
In the time of Cyrus there was likewise in this temple a figure of a man, twelve cubits high, entirely of solid gold…. Besides the ornaments which I have mentioned, there are a large number of private offerings in this holy precinct.”
Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915.