The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, written eighteen centuries before the Christ event is about a king who embarked on a journey to find the secret of immortality. The story relates the story of Gilgamish, who is a hero to his people. It gives clear ideas of time and place and talks about how gardens were associated with shade, running water, fragrance and fresh produce and represented peace and prosperity. The poem tells of the groves ‘of the plain’ with willow and boxwood and the hills with ‘forests stretching ten thousand leagues in every direction’. Those forests were of scrub oak, oriental plane and species of box, cedar, cypress and poplar. Timber and aromatics came from the mountains of Turkey and Syria with cedar wood from the mountains of Lebanon.
The great cedars from which King Solomon is said to have built his temple still stand on the slopes of Mount Lebanon 4,000 feet below the 10,000-foot summit. The cedar tree in biblical times stood as a symbol for everything strong, fertile and abundant its wood highly prized for its strength, colour and scent. Europeans regarded them with awe and they were celebrated in village folklore. Three of the four species of cedar came from the shores of the Mediterranean, the fourth from the western Himalayas. The oldest, the cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus Libani) is by far the most celebrated and many of them have remained exactly the same since travellers began writing about them. The largest on the mountain today has a girth of some 48 feet and is calculated to be about 25,000 years old. The largest surviving natural woods of Lebanon cedar are in the mountains of southeastern Turkey.