No. 209 – The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin

Right panel, top: artist’s impression of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (photo: Alamy); right panel, bottom: Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York (photo: Brett Weinstein)

Prog 165’s (1980) one-off futuregraph The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy[1] No. 4: The Hanging Prisons of Sin-Sin by Kevin O’Neill v the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and Sing Sing Correctional Facility, New York

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon are traditionally thought to have been created in the city of Babylon in Mesopotamia (near Hillah in present-day Iraq) by Neo-Babylonian[2] King Nebuchadnezzar II (c. 605 BC–c. 562 BC), and have been described as a spectacular, ascending series of lush, tiered gardens constructed for his wife, Amuhia (or “Amytis”, c. 630–565 BC), to assuage her homesickness for native Medea (in present-day Iran). Some scholars place the actual site of the Hanging Gardens at Ninevah in northern Iraq, which would have, at the time, made them the property of the Babylonians’ neighbours and foes the Assyrians, and as such the brainchild of King Sennacherib (reigning 704–681 BC); the two sites having perhaps been confused in the mists of legend.

Sing Sing in 1857

Sing Sing maximum security prison, however, is very much under the purview of the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, and very certainly located in village of Ossining[3], about 48 km (30 miles) north of New York City on the east bank of the Hudson River. The prison has been in operation under one name or another since 1828, houses 2,000 inmates, and despite a brutal history is considered to be a model prison, due in part to its progressive educational and sports programs, and by whose standard other US correctional facilities are measured.[4]

Notes:

  1. Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
  2. “Neo-” referring to the Second Babylonian Empire (626 BC–539 BC), as distinct from the First Babylonian Empire (or “Dynasty”, 1895 BC–539 BC) founded by King Hammurabi (c. 1810 BC–c. 1750 BC)
  3. Both the village and the name of the prison are derived from the name of the Native American “Sinck Sinck” or “Sint Sinck” (Eastern Algonquian, lit. “stone upon stone”), a Wappinger tribe from New York and Connecticut, from whom the land was purchased in 1685
  4. Not, all things considered, a particularly high bar

No. 206 – Valley of the Gods

Valley of the Kings image ©National Geographic

Prog 163’s (1980) one-off futuregraph The 7 Wonders of the Galaxy[1] No. 2: Valley of the Gods by Kevin O’Neill v Valley of the Kings, Egypt[2]

Map of the East Valley

In the heart of the Theban Necropolis and standing on the west bank of the Nile River, this valley was for a period of nearly 500 years the resting place for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the Egyptian New Kingdom[3]. Almost all of the tombs – ranging in size from a simple pit to a complex tomb with over 120 chambers – have long since been plundered, but what remains still provides an idea of the opulence and power of the Pharaohs. New tombs are still being discovered and excavated, including one in 2005 and another in 2008.

Abu Simbel

O’Neill has taken some physical characteristics of the East Valley – where the tombs are located, but which contains little in the way of giant statues – and incorporated features of other Ancient Egyptian landmarks such as the temples of Abu Simbel, located farther south near the border with present-day Sudan.

There is a Valley of the Queens, where the wives of the Pharaohs were buried, located nearby, close to what archeologists believe is a sacred grotto dedicated to Hathor, Ancient Egyptian goddess epitomising joy, music, feminine love and motherhood.

Notes:

  1. Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
  2. Not to be confused with the Valley of the Gods, Utah, US – well, in terms of O’Neill’s scale, maybe a little bit
  3. In conventional Egyptian chronology: Old Kingdom: c. 2686–2181 BC (so-called “Age of the Pyramids”), Middle Kingdom: c. 2050–1710 BC, New Kingdom: c. 1570–1069 BC

No. 204 – The Colossus of Rodium

Colossus of Rhodes image courtesy Patrimonios del Mundo

Prog 162’s (1980) one-off furturegraph The Wonders 7 of the Galaxy[1] [No. 1]: The Colossus of Rodium by Kevin O’Neill v the Colossus of Rhodes [Attic Greek: ὁ Κολοσσὸς Ῥόδιος]

Idealised but highly inaccurate 19th century engraving

Considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and certainly the tallest statue of the antiquity at 33 metres (108 feet) high – approximately the height of the Statue of Liberty – the Colossus of Rhodes, a statue of the Greek sun-god Helios[2], was constructed by sculptor Chares of Lindos in 280 BC in the city of Rhodes on the island of the same name, to celebrate Rhodes’ victory over Antigonus I Monophthalmus (382–301 BC), the ruler of Cyprus whose son, Demetrius I (aka “Poliorcetes”, 337–283 BC), unsuccessfully besieged Rhodes in 305 BC. The statue collapsed during an earthquake in 226 or 227 BC, and although parts of it remained it was never rebuilt[3], and the actual location of the original remains in dispute.

Popular depictions of the statue standing astride Rhodes harbour, gleaming in bronze and holding a torch are flights of medieval fancy as the size, weight and composition imagined would have certainly caused the structure to collapse under its own weight; not to mention the fact that Rhodes harbour would have had to be closed to business for several years during construction. The most accurate depictions of how it may have looked are those along the lines of that pictured at the top of this entry.

O’Neill has also incorporated another wonder of the ancient world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, or Pharos of Alexandria [Attic Greek: ὁ Φάρος τῆς Ἀλεξανδρείας], built in Egypt during the reign Ptolemy II Philadelphus (280–247 BC).

Notes:

  1. Referring to the Seven Wonders of the Classical World: the Great Pyramid at Giza (Egypt), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (Mesopotamia, modern Iraq), the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (Greece), the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Ancient Greek, located in modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (Rhodes, Greece) and the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Egypt)
  2. Deity and personification of the Sun in Greek mythology
  3. Following the earthquake, the statue lay in place for nearly eight centuries before being sold off by invaders. Modern plans to rebuild the statue, proposed by a group of European architects in 2015, appear to have been abandoned