1 - The world of Mesopotamia: origins of the garden

In the Assyrian world, the garden reflected the glory of the sovereign. The huge parks laid out in the shadow of royal palaces, with their rich variety of species, evoked the breadth and sweep of the realm. Experience acquired in the fields of architecture, hydraulics and botany was applied to create the hanging gardens of Babylon, destined to become one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

While it is impossible to know the concrete form, or even the certain collocation of this grandiose work, we can trace its technological background and the wide-ranging knowledge that lay at the basis of Mesopotamian gardens.

Although the garden art had begun to take shape in Egypt as far back as the second millennium B.C., Hellenic culture was influenced very early by the concept of gardens that evolved in the world of Mesopotamia.

  Fragment of vase (detail)   The Palace of Zimri Lim of Mari   Painting of the Investiture   Goddess of the gushing water   The sowing plow   Structure and components of the sowing plow   Sowing plow   The Hanging Gardens of Babylon   Fragment of vase   Small plaque with scene of plant watering   Fragment of a group portraying two goddesses with a jar   Stylized tree   Stylized tree   Stylized tree   Stylized tree   Monument de Ninive découvert et décrit par M.P.E. Botta; mesuré et dessiné par M.E. Flandin   Monument de Ninive découvert et décrit par M.P.E. Botta; mesuré et dessiné par M.E. Flandin   Herodotus of Halicarnassus, Historiarum Libri IX   Babylonian fugitives in a cane thicket   Line of women in a palm grove   Relief carving showing transport of prisoners in a palm grove   The hydraulic systems in the Mesopotamian Hanging Gardens

The Hittite Empire

Based on epigraphic material in cuneiform characters found in excavating the capital city Khattusha (today’s Boğazköy), it has been possible to trace the ancient Hittite civilization, which flourished in Turkey between the 17th-16th and the 13th century B.C.

For the Hittites, the concept of ornamental garden did not exist. The garden’s function was practical and productive, and many plants now considered ornamental were grown for medicinal purposes.

Fields, groves of trees, vegetable gardens, plots of medicinal and aromatic herbs, vineyards and orchards, irrigated by a system of canals, were sometimes surrounded by fences with gates. Aromatic plants in particular were widely cultivated. In the gardens of Dur-Sharrukin, King Sargon II (721-704 B.C.) had “all of the aromatic plants in the land of the Hittites” planted.

The importance of gardens is also demonstrated by the existence of a “festival of gardens”.


The Kingdom of Urartu in Armenia

From the heart of the Kingdom of Urartu, in the regions around Lake Van in eastern Turkey, significant testimony to the high level of civilization reached by this people has emerged.

For the Urartians, city and country formed a unitary concept. For each new city founded, the sovereigns ordered imposing hydraulic systems for agricultural purposes. An inscription from the 9th century B.C. tells of planting vineyards and orchards in a magnificently scenic place, a rocky niche opening out like a theatrical set toward the great Lake Van. Here King Minua and Queen Tariria had canals dug to irrigate the vineyards, whose grapes were sent to fill the storehouses in the impregnable fortress of Tušpa. Famous is “Minua’s canal”, still in operation today, whose attribution to the king is proven by fourteen inscriptions found along its course.


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