The incredible works of art and architecture known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World serve as a monument to human creativity, imagination, and pure hard labor. They are, nevertheless, reminders of humanity’s ability for discord, devastation, and, possibly, embellishment.
When ancient writers established a list of “seven marvels,” it sparked discussion about which accomplishments deserved to be included. The original list originates from Philo of Byzantium’s essay On The Seven Wonders, written in 225 B.C. All but one of the wonders were eventually destroyed by human actions and natural forces. Furthermore, at least one of the wonders could have never existed. Despite this, all seven continue to inspire and be celebrated as amazing examples of Earth’s early civilizations’ inventiveness and talent.
Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza, located north of Cairo in Egypt on the west bank of the Nile River, is the only ancient world wonder that has survived to the current day. It is one of three royal burial pyramids built between 2700 and 2500 B.C., including Khufu (Cheops), Khafra (Chephren), and Menkaura (Mycerimus). Khufu, often known as “The Great Pyramid,” is the largest and most spectacular, covering 13 acres and containing over 2 million stone blocks weighing between two and 30 tons each.
For more than 4,000 years, Khufu was the world’s tallest structure. In reality, modern man did not construct a taller edifice until the nineteenth century. Surprisingly, the Egyptian pyramids were constructed without the use of modern tools or surveying technology. How did the Egyptians construct the pyramids?
Scientists believe the Egyptians moved the stones into place with log rollers and sledges. The slanted walls, which were meant to resemble Ra’s rays, were first constructed as steps and then filled in with limestone. In a futile attempt to deter grave robbers, the pyramids’ interiors incorporated narrow passages and concealed chambers. Despite the fact that modern archeologists have discovered some spectacular artifacts among the ruins, most of the pyramids’ contents were taken within 250 years of their construction.
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens
The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, according to ancient Greek authors, erected the Hanging Gardens of Babylon near the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq in approximately 600 B.C. The gardens were supposed to have been planted as high as 75 feet in the air on a massive square brick terrace set out in theater-style levels. The king is said to have erected the towering gardens to satisfy his lover Amytis’ longing for the natural beauty of her native Media (the northwestern part of modern-day Iran). People could wander beneath the lovely gardens, which were supported by tall stone columns, according to later writers.
The gardens would have had to be watered using a system consisting of a pump, waterwheel, and cisterns to transfer water from the Euphrates several feet into the air for the gardens to exist, according to modern experts. Despite the fact that there are several tales of the gardens in Greek and Roman literature, none are firsthand, and no reference of the gardens has been found in Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions. As a result, most current researchers assume that the presence of the gardens was part of a fantastical but widely believed story.
Zeus Statue in Olympia
Around the mid-fifth century B.C., the Athenian sculptor Phidias finished and installed the famous statue of Zeus, the king of the gods in Greek mythology, in the temple of Zeus at Olympia, the ancient Olympic site. The god of thunder was sat bare-chested on a wooden throne in the statue. Two carved sphinxes, mythical animals with the head and chest of a woman, the body of a lion, and the wings of a bird supported the thrones’ armrests. Zeus’ statue was lavishly adorned with gold and ivory.
It was 40 feet tall, and its head almost touched the top of the temple. After the sculptor Phidias begged Zeus for a sign of his approval after finishing the statue, the temple was struck by lightning, according to tradition. Before Christian priests persuaded the Roman emperor to close the temple in the fourth century A.D., the Zeus statue graced the temple at Olympia for more than eight centuries. The statue was relocated to a temple in Constantinople during the period, where it is thought to have been destroyed in a fire in 462.
Ephesus’s Artemis Temple
There was more than one Temple of Artemis: in Ephesus, a Greek port city on the west coast of modern-day Turkey, a series of altars and temples were destroyed and then restored on the same site. Two marble temples built around 550 and 350 B.C. were the most spectacular of these constructions. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was described by Antipater of Sidon as “apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on anything so grand.”
The original Temple of Artemis was created by Chersiphron and his son Metagenes, a Cretan architect, and embellished by some of the world’s most famous artists. According to mythology, the building burned down on July 21, 356 B.C., the same night that Alexander the Great was born. A Greek citizen named Herostratus set fire to it, claiming that he did it so that his name would be remembered in history. He was executed, and the authorities made it unlawful to even mention his name.
The construction of the new Temple of Artemis began about six years later. The new structure was encircled by marble steps leading to a 400-foot-long terrace. There were 127 60-foot marble columns inside, as well as a statue of Artemis, the Greek goddess of hunting. Archaeologists argue over whether the structure had an open-air ceiling or a wood-tiled ceiling. The temple was substantially destroyed by the Ostrogoths in A.D. 262, and archeologists didn’t find the first of the temple’s columns until the 1860s, at the mouth of the Cayster River.
The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was a tomb built by Artemisia for her husband, Mausolus, the king of Carnia in Asia Minor, after his death in 353 B.C. in what is now southeastern Turkey. Mausolus was also Artemisia’s brother, and legend has it that she was so upset by his death that she combined his ashes with water and drank them, as well as ordering the mausoleum’s construction. The huge mausoleum was constructed entirely of white marble and was approximately 135 feet tall.
The building’s intricate design, which consists of three rectangular sections, could have been an attempt to bring Lycian, Greek, and Egyptian architectural traditions together. A 60-foot base of stairs was followed by 36 Ionic columns in the middle layer and a stepped, pyramid-shaped dome. The tomb, which was embellished by four artists and had a 20-foot marble representation of a four-horse chariot, was located at the very top of the roof.
The mausoleum was largely damaged in a 13th-century earthquake, and the remnants were eventually used to fortify a fortress. Pieces of one of the mausoleum’s friezes were recovered from the castle in 1846 and currently reside in London’s British Museum, together with other antiquities from the Halicarnassus site.
The Colossus of Rhodes was a 12-year-long bronze sculpture of the sun god Helios constructed by the Rhodians in the third century B.C. The city was besieged by Macedonians early in the fourth century B.C., and tradition has it that the Rhodians sold the Macedonians’ tools and equipment to pay for the Colossus. The statue, designed by artist Chares, stood 100 feet tall and was the highest in the ancient world. It was finished in 280 B.C. and stood for sixty years until an earthquake demolished it. It was never reconstructed.
Arabs stormed Rhodes hundreds of years later and sold the statue’s remains as scrap metal. As a result, archeologists have little information about the statue’s specific position or appearance. Most people believe it shows the sun deity standing naked, holding a torch in one hand and a spear in the other. The statue was long thought to stand on one leg on each side of a bay, but most academics now agree that the statue’s legs were erected close together to accommodate its enormous weight.
The Alexandria Lighthouse was located near the city of Alexandria on a tiny island named Pharos. The lighthouse, designed by Greek architect Sostratos and completed in 270 B.C. during Ptolemy II’s reign, assisted in guiding Nile River ships into and out of the city’s busy harbor.
Archaeologists discovered ancient coins depicting the lighthouse and inferred that it had three levels: a square level at the bottom, an octagonal level in the center, and a cylindrical level at the top. A 16-foot statue of Ptolemy II or Alexander the Great, for whom the city was named, stood above it. The lighthouse’s height has been estimated to range from 200 to 600 feet, although most modern researchers believe it was around 380 feet tall. Between 956 and 1323, a succession of earthquakes eventually damaged the lighthouse. Some of its relics have since been uncovered near the Nile’s bottom.
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