History of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The most famous list of the old wonders of the world is On the Seven Wonders, attributed to Philo of Byzantium in 225 BCE. Herodotus, Antipater of Sidon, and Callimachus of Cyrene also mention the Seven Wonders in some of their writings. The number seven was significant in numerology since it is indivisible; each item in a list of seven has equal significance. The list varies slightly from author to author, but each includes most of the same monuments, and Philo's list is traditionally regarded as the official one.
Philo referred to the wonders as themata, a Greek word that translates to "things to see." It was a list for Greek travelers of the best sights to see in their travels. Since the list was compiled by Greek writers, it includes only sights to be seen in the Greek-speaking parts of the world at the time. Other architectural achievements from other cultures were unknown to these writers.
Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
As mentioned previously, each of the wonders is located in and around the world of ancient Greece
The Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu between 2584 and 2561 BCE. It is one of a group of three such tombs, but the Great Pyramid is the largest and most impressive of the three. It is made of over two million stone blocks, each of which weighs between 2 and 30 tons. The base of the pyramid occupies a space of 13 acres. For about 4,000 years, the Great Pyramid was the tallest manmade structure in the world. The inside of the pyramid is a maze of corridors and hidden rooms designed to thwart grave robbers and protect the Pharaoh's possessions.
The sides of the Great Pyramid were meant to represent the rays of Ra, the sun god.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built between 605 and 562 BCE as a gift for Nebuchadnezzar II's wife. The story states that the king built these gardens for his wife, since she missed the greenery of her homeland. The gardens were described as having been built on a series of terraces that reached 75 feet in height at the highest point. Historians describe being able to walk beneath the gardens hanging off the terraces.
Archeologists believe that the Hanging Gardens would have needed a complex irrigation system to thrive on the terraces.
The Statue of Zeus
The Statue of Zeus, located in Olympia, Greece, was created in the 5th century BCE by Phidias, who is known as the best sculptor in ancient Greece. The statue was 40 feet tall, and depicted Zeus sitting in his throne, bare-chested with robes made of hammered gold. It was designed to inspire those who came to worship at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia.
The Statue of Zeus was located at the site where the ancient Olympics were held.
The Temple of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis was originally built in 550 BCE in Ephesus, located in modern-day Turkey. It was sponsored by King Croesus of Lydia, and dedicated to Artemis, the Greek goddess of the hunt. The building was 425 feet long, 225 feet wide, and contained 127 columns that were 60 feet tall each. Writers of the time agreed that this temple was one of the most awe-inspiring structures built by humans. The Temple of Artemis was rebuilt several times throughout its history.
This reconstruction of the Temple of Artemis shows its impressive columns.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was built around 351 BCE as a tomb for the Persian Satrap Mausolus. It was built by his wife Artemisia after his death. She wanted a magnificent structure to honor how great a king her husband had been. The mausoleum was 135 feet tall, made out of white marble, and decorated with sculptures. It was constructed in three rectangular layers, with steps at the bottom, followed by a layer with 36 columns and a pyramid-shaped roof. The tomb itself was located at the top of the roof.
It is from King Mausolus that we get the English word mausoleum.
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was built between 292 and 280 BCE. It was a bronze statue of Helios, the god of the sun, and was constructed to look over the harbor at Rhodes. It was the tallest statue of the ancient world, standing at over 100 feet tall. In order to pay for the massive statue, the citizens of Rhodes sold siege equipment and weapons left behind when Demetrius invaded the island in 304 BCE. The Colossus was the inspiration behind the Statue of Liberty in the United States.
Despite being imagined as straddling the harbor, archeologists agree the Colossus of Rhodes most likely stood with both feet on one platform.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built on the island of Pharos near 280 BCE. It was almost 440 feet tall and was commissioned by Ptolemy I. Just off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt, a large mirror inside the lighthouse reflected sunlight during the day and a fire at night. The lighthouse was used to guide ships coming out of the Nile River into the Mediterranean port.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria was the third-tallest structure built by humans in the ancient world.
What Destroyed the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?
What destroyed the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Most of the Seven Wonders were destroyed by earthquakes. The Lighthouse of Alexandria suffered damage from several earthquakes. Stones from the lighthouse have been found at the bottom of the Nile River. The Colossus of Rhodes fell during an earthquake only 60 years after it was built, and its pieces were then sold as scrap metal. The Mausoleum and Hanging Gardens were also destroyed by earthquakes.
There is some controversy as to whether the Hanging Gardens of Babylon ever existed, since they are not present in Babylonian history, or in Herodotus's descriptions of Babylon. However, they are mentioned by several other historians, so their existence remains a mystery.
The Temple of Artemis was destroyed several times throughout its history. In 365 BCE, it was burned to the ground by a man named Herostratus, who wanted to become famous by destroying a building so beautiful. It was rebuilt, destroyed by the Goths, rebuilt again, and finally destroyed permanently by Saint John Chrysostom and a mob of Christians in 401 CE. The Statue of Zeus's demise was also caused by Christians. When Christianity began to rise in the Roman Empire, the Temple of Olympia fell into ruins as the Olympic games were banned for being pagan. The statue was rescued and moved to Constantinople, where an earthquake destroyed it in the 5th or 6th century CE.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the seven ancient wonders that is still standing. It was looted by grave robbers, and its white façade was removed, but the pyramid itself has remained intact through the centuries.
New Seven Wonders of the World
In 2000, a Swiss foundation called the New 7 Wonders Foundation started a campaign to create an updated list of the Seven Wonders of the world, including places outside of ancient Greece and its neighbors. Over 100 million people voted for the new list of wonders. The winners, which were announced in 2007, are not all ancient, however. One of the new Seven Wonders was completed after World War I, less than 100 years ago. The new Seven Wonders of the world are:
- The Great Wall of China
- Chichen Itza in Mexico
- The stone city of Petra, in Jordan
- Machu Picchu in Peru
- Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- The Colosseum in Rome
- The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are great architectural achievements of the time. Each of the wonders is located in and around the world of ancient Greece, and the list was compiled by Philo of Byzantium in 225 BCE.
- The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the wonders still standing. It was built as a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu.
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were gardens built on terraces as a gift for Nebuchadnezzar II's wife, according to legend. Scholars are not sure whether this wonder ever existed.
- The Statue of Zeus in Olympia, Greece, was built by the sculptor Phidias at the site of the ancient Olympic games. It was moved to Constantinople when Christianity came to Rome, and was then destroyed by an earthquake.
- The Temple of Artemis was built to honor the Greek goddess of the hunt in Ephesus, which is located in modern-day Turkey. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times before finally being destroyed by a mob of Christians led by Saint John Chrysostom.
- The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was built as a tomb for King Mausolus by his wife. It was destroyed by an earthquake.
- The Colossus of Rhodes was a large statue of the god Helios that overlooked the harbor of Rhodes. It was destroyed by an earthquake and sold for scrap metal after standing for only 60 years.
- The Lighthouse of Alexandria was built to direct ships from the Nile into Alexandria's harbor. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes.
In 2007, the New 7 Wonders Foundation announced the results of their campaign to create an updated list of wonders of the world. The new list includes architectural wonders located on four continents around the world, some of which were built much more recently than the ancient wonders.