There is always a particular pleasure in being asked to review a book that you were planning to buy anyway. I was sent Stephanie Dalley’s The Mystery of the Hanging Garden of Babylon by this magazine a few months ago, but had been waiting to read it for much longer than that. The book’s argument – that the Hanging Garden supposedly built by Nebuchadnezzar had in fact been located further north, in the Assyrian city of Nineveh – was not new to me. A few years earlier, while researching a book of my own on the Persian Wars, I had come across an essay by Dalley intriguingly entitled ‘Why Did Herodotus not Mention the Hanging Gardens of Babylon?’ I read on with a feverish interest. Much was hanging for me (as it were) on the answer that the article gave.
The reason for this is that the absence of the Hanging Gardens from Herodotus’s Histories has all kinds of implications for anyone attempting to evaluate the character and reliability of the world’s first work of history. Babylon features prominently in it. Describing how the city fell to the Persians, Herodotus