The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Kai Baldwin, Suzanne Rose
  • Author
    Kai Baldwin

    Kai has a master's degree in media studies from The New School, and a bachelor's degree in religion and philosophy from Lebanon Valley College. They have taught college religion courses for over two years.

  • Instructor
    Suzanne Rose

    Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

What are the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? Learn about the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World and what destroyed the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Updated: 07/09/2021

Table of Contents


What Are the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World?

What are the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? In ancient Greece, the Seven Wonders were famous architectural achievements located in the Mediterranean and Middle East regions of the world. The list of these ancient wonders of the world includes:

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt
  • The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  • The Statue of Zeus in Olympia, Greece
  • The Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, Turkey
  • The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  • The Colossus of Rhodes
  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria in Egypt

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 Great Sphinx of Giza is located near the Great Pyramid of Giza.

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 Hanging Gardens of Babylon were grown on large 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 Statue of Zeus had its throne supported by sphinxes.

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 Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was burned down on the night Alexander the Great was born.

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 Mausoleum at Halicarnassus used several different architectural styles.

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 Colossus of Rhodes only stood for 56 years before an earthquake toppled it.

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.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria was located on the Nile River Delta.

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.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the 7 wonders of the world today?

The new seven wonders of the world were chosen in 2007 by a massive voting campaign. They include the Great Wall of China, Chichen Itza, Petra, Machu Picchu, Christ the Redeemer Statue, the Taj Mahal, and the Colissuem in Rome.

What are the 7 original wonders of the world?

The seven original wonders of the world were in a list compiled by Philo of Byzantium. They are the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

How many of the original 7 Wonders still exist?

Unfortunately, only one of the original seven wonders of the world still exists. The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is the only wonder that has survived to the modern era.

How were the seven wonders of the ancient world destroyed?

Most of the seven wonders of the ancient world were destroyed by earthquakes. Other causes include fire and invasion, and the Hanging Gardens may not have existed at all.

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