Apart from the kitchen garden and the orchard, which must have been part of many homesteads since the beginning of organised agriculture, ornamental gardens with flowers, trees and ponds were planted for comfort and pleasure. Ancient Near Eastern literature abounds with allusions to the delights found in fragrant and cool gardens, and paintings preserved in Egyptian tombs (eg Nebamun’s, XVIII Dynasty, British Museum) show formally laid out flower-beds, trees and shrubs surrounding a pond stocked with fish and water-fowl. Such were the gardens surrounding the luxurious villas and palaces at TELL EL-AMARNA. Archaeologists have occasionally found traces of gardens within temples (eg DEIR-EL-BAHARI: Mentuhotep’s temple) or palaces (eg MARI, RAS SHAMRA, BABYLON), but they were doubtlessly much more in evidence in antiquity than excavations suggest.
The entrances of city walls and monumental buildings were the focal points of the whole facade. Decorative elements were often used to enhance the appearance of the gateways (eg by relief orthostats in the Syro-Hittite palaces; see CARCHEMISH, ALAÇA HÜYÜK, or by glazed bricks as in BABYLON etc).
As gateways are basically large openings they can weaken the incumbent masonry, and from the strategic point of view they provide obvious targets of assault. They therefore have to match the strength of the walls, do minimal damage to the structure of the brickwork, and provide a defendable means of access and exit. The jambs were strengthened by vertical pilasters or buttresses, and the wooden lintel of an ordinary doorway was usually replaced by an arch, which distributes the pressure from the wall above more evenly and allows for a wider span. The flanking buttresses could develop into gate-towers protruding above the wall, which could in turn be surmounted by battlements and contain chambers and stairways for the use of the guardsmen (eg Ishtar gate at BABYLON).
The actual doorway of the gate was made of heavy timber planks and secured by bolts on the inside. It was often set back into a funnel-shaped opening formed by the projecting lateral bastions or buttresses. This made an attack difficult and provided additional space for peaceful activities which habitually centred around the city gates in ancient Oriental towns.
When the city walls were double, the arrangement of the gateway naturally repeated this feature by providing a double gate with an interior longitudinal or transverse hall.
In Assyria, Anatolia (Hittites) and Persia, gateways were magically protected against evil spirits and malevolent demons by sculpted ‘guardians of the gate’ in the shape of sphinxes, lions or winged creatures with animal bodies and human heads (see LAMASSU). Egyptian stone