By the sheer number of lists found online, we know that people love to rank items. We have proof that this is an ancient tradition, as there are numerous references in ancient texts to Greek poet Antipater of Sidon’s Seven Wonders of the World. Antipater, who came from a city that still exists in modern Lebanon, wrote his list around 140 BCE, so we know that the first listicle is at least 2155 years old.
There have been countless lists of the most amazing buildings and structures of man’s creation since the days of Antipater. Because the items on the lists tend to vary, none truly can claim to be "the" definitive seven wonders of the world. The original Greek list is agreed upon more than the others, so we’ll agree with the experts and use the original Seven Wonders of the World.
Focused on the world that was known at the time, these wonders are part of an amazing journey across varied cultures and civilizations, and show the sheer will and determination of these ancient societies to honor their gods and create lasting impact on their world. While huge in scope and size, time and nature has taken its toll on the massive undertakings and only one of the wonders still stands.
This is our version of the world’s oldest list article, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World:
- Hanging Gardens Of Babylon
- Statue Of Zeus At Olympia
- Mausoleum At Halicarnassus
- Temple Of Artemis
- Lighthouse Of Alexandria
- Colossus Of Rhodes
- The Great Pyramid Of Giza
Hanging Gardens Of Babylon
Claimed to have been constructed by the Babylonians near the Euphrates River in what we now know as Iraq, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon had outer walls that were 56 miles long, 80 feet thick, and 320 feet high, although archeological finds have never corroborated this. The upkeep alone would have been incredible, involving an irrigation system made up of a pump, waterwheel, and cisterns in order to bring water up from the river up into the air.
Built in 600 BCE, allegedly as a way for King Nebuchadnezzar II to assuage his wife’s homesickness for her native Media (what is now the northwestern part of Iran and southeast Turkey), it was likely destroyed by an earthquake after the first century BCE. With no certain location known for these massive gardens, modern scholars are uncertain as to whether they actually existed.
Statue Of Zeus At Olympia
At about 40 feet tall, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia was a giant seated figure of the Greek god Zeus, which occupied the entire width of the aisle of the Sanctuary of Olympia, Greece. This sanctuary was built just to house the amazing statue.
Decorated with gold and ivory, it was almost tall enough to touch the top of the temple. Built by Greek sculptor Phidias in 435 BCE, it stood for eight centuries, until Christian priests closed the temple during the fourth century CE. No record exists of what happened to the statue, but it is believed that it was disassembled and moved to Constantinople where it ultimately was destroyed by fire in the fifth and sixth centuries CE.
Mausoleum At Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum of Mausolus at Halicarnassus was a tomb built for Mausolus, the satrap, or governor, of a Persian territory which lies in the western part of modern Turkey. Built by Persians and Greeks in 351 BCE, the tomb stood approximately 135 feet tall.
The complex, a tripled-layered structure made of white marble is thought by many to have incorporated Lycian, Greek, and Egyptian architectural styles. The 60-foot base of stone steps, led up to 36 lonic columns, and a 24 level pyramid-shaped roof that was topped by a statue of 4 horses pulling a chariot. It is no wonder why this massive tomb is credited with being the origin of the word "mausoleum."
Several earthquakes rocked the structure over the centuries, but a massive quake in 1494 CE demolished the building, although its remains were used later to fortify a nearby castle structure.
Temple Of Artemis
The construction of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was started by Croesus of Lydia and took 120 years to build. Built in Ephesus, a Greek city in what is now Turkey, the temple consisted of a series of altars and temples. The temple was destroyed multiple times by flood, arson, and invasion, and rebuilt at least three times in its original location.
In 401 CE, the temple was destroyed for the final time by a mob led by Christian bishop St. John Chrysostom. Remains were eventually discovered in 1869 CE by an expedition led by John Turtle Wood who found the columns of the temple buried on the bottom of the Cayster River.
Lighthouse Of Alexandria
With a height somewhere between 390 feet and 450 feet, the Lighthouse of Alexandria (also called the Pharos of Alexandria) was one of the tallest manmade structures on earth for many centuries. Built in the City of Alexandria, Egypt in the third century BCE by the Ptolemaic Kingdom in Hellenistic Egypt, and designed by Greek architect Sostratos, it was used to help guide ships in and out of the Nile River harbor. During his invasion of Egypt, Roman general Julius Caesar wrote about the strategic importance of the lighthouse for control of the city's harbour.
Archeologists have discovered ancient coins that depicted the lighthouse, and from these have come to the conclusion that it was likely a three-tiered structure that included a square level at the base, an octagonal level in the middle, and a top that was cylindrical. Above it stood a statue that was 16-feet fall and most likely was a representation of Ptolemy II or Alexander the Great. Three earthquakes led to its destruction and the remains were used to build the Citadel of Qaitbay in its place in the 13th century.
In 1994, French archeologists found remains of the lighthouse on the bottom of Alexandria harbor, and divers can visit the ruins today, one of the few of the seven wonders that we can still visit.
Colossus of Rhodes
A giant statue of the Greek titan-god Helios, the Colossus of Rhodes, stood approximately the same size as the Statue of Liberty in New York, which stands 151 feet from base to torch. It was designed by the sculptor Chares of Lindos, and at 100 feet high, it was the tallest statue of its time.
It was believed to have been a representations of the sun god standing in the nude, lifting a torch in one hand and holding a spear in the other. Built in Hellenistic Greece around 292 - 280 BCE, it was destroyed by the great earthquake of 226 BC. Centuries after its destruction, an Arab force confiscated the remains after invading Rhodes, selling any remaining metal as scrap and erasing evidence of the true location of the statue.
The Great Pyramid Of Giza
The only wonder to survive until modern times, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built around 2650 - 2500 BCE by the Ancient Egyptians, as one of a series of royal tombs.
Near Giza, Egypt, there are three large pyramids: Khufu, Khafra, and Menkaura. By far, Khufu is the most impressive and as such, earned it the title of The Great Pyramid. It covers 13 acres of desert and is estimated to contain some 2 million stone blocks weighing in at a hefty 2 to 30 tons apiece. At the time when it was built, it was even more impressive, covered by a layer of smooth white stone and possibly a solid gold capstone on top, both of which have been looted long ago.
Scientists speculate that log rollers and sledges were used to move stones into place. Although narrow corridors and hidden chambers were included on the inside to stop looters and grave robbers, modern archeologists believe most of the hidden treasures within were stolen not long after construction.