The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are a testament to human ingenuity, creativity, and ambition. Historians trace the origins of this list back to the Hellenistic period when scholars, such as Herodotus around 450 BCE, compiled a ranking of the most impressive structures in their world. This list included wonders like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and the Colossus of Rhodes. While only some of these wonders have survived to modern times, they continue to fascinate with their sheer grandeur and scale.
In 2007, an initiative called New7Wonders Foundation congregated to select seven new wonders from around the world. This initiative formed from a desire to update and expand upon the original Seven Wonders list while reflecting contemporary global diversity. The resulting list included landmarks such as Petra in Jordan, Machu Picchu in Peru, and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.
Despite this newer initiative, however, there is still much to learn from studying the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. These marvels offer insights into ancient cultures' worldviews and values while inspiring with their beauty and innovation.
These are 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
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It was a unique feat of engineering and architecture built in the city of Babylon, located near modern-day Baghdad, Iraq. Ancient sources attributed the Garden to King Nebuchadnezzar II in the 6th century BC as a gift to his wife, Amytis. Architects intended the gardens to replicate her homeland's mountainous terrain, vastly different from Mesopotamia's flat landscape.
The designers constructed the Hanging Gardens on a series of elevated terraces supported by stone columns. Each terrace was covered with layers of soil and planted with various trees, shrubs, and flowers. Groundskeepers irrigated the gardens using a complex system of channels that carried water from the nearby Euphrates River. The gardens were not actually "hanging" in the sense that they were suspended from anything. Instead, citizens referred to them as "hanging" because they appeared to be hanging over the edge of each terrace due to their lush growth and vibrant colors.
Despite being one of the most famous wonders of the ancient world, there is very little physical evidence left today that can confirm its existence. Most descriptions come from ancient texts written by Greek historians who never actually saw it themselves. Some scholars have even debated whether or not the Hanging Gardens existed at all or if they were just a myth created for propaganda purposes.
Statue Of Zeus At Olympia
The Greek sculptor Phidias created The Statue of Zeus in the 5th century BCE, and it stood over 40 feet tall inside the Temple of Zeus in Olympia. The statue depicted Zeus, king of the gods, seated on a throne of ivory and gold. His robe and sandals were also gold, while his hair and beard were ivory. In his left hand, he held a scepter with an eagle perched on top, symbolizing his power as ruler of all living creatures. He had a small statue of Nike, the goddess of victory, in his right hand.
The statue's construction took nearly a decade to complete and required enormous resources. The ivory for the body was imported from India, while the gold for the clothing came from various regions around Greece. The throne itself had precious stones and gems embedded in it.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was a masterpiece in its artistic beauty and held great religious significance for ancient Greeks. The temple where it resided was considered one of the most sacred places in Greece, dedicated to honoring their most powerful god. Unfortunately, like many ancient treasures, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia did not survive through time. Scholars believe it was destroyed or lost during one of several earthquakes in Olympia throughout history.
Mausoleum At Halicarnassus
The Mausoleum was a grand tomb built during the 4th century BCE in Halicarnassus, a city located in modern-day Turkey. The structure was commissioned by Artemisia II of Caria, the wife of King Mausolus, to honor his memory after his death in 353 BC. The mausoleum stood at an impressive height of over 45 meters, and intricate sculptures and reliefs adorned it. Builders constructed it using marble sourced from nearby quarries, and several esteemed Greek architects and sculptors designed it - such as Satyros, Pythis, Leochares, and Timotheos.
The mausoleum's exterior featured a stepped pyramid structure with four sides decorated with sculpted friezes depicting scenes from Greek mythology. The top of the pyramid possessed a statue of Mausolus and Artemisia riding a chariot. Inside the mausoleum were several rooms containing elaborate decorations such as frescoes and gold leaf. The central chamber housed the sarcophagus of Mausolus and Artemisia. Over time, the mausoleum suffered damage from natural disasters and human activities such as looting. Many of its original sculptures have been lost or destroyed. However, some fragments have survived and are now on display in various museums worldwide.
Despite its decline over the centuries, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus remains an important cultural landmark that showcases the skillful craftsmanship and artistic achievements of ancient civilizations. Its influence is observable in later works, such as the Taj Mahal in India, which is similarly inspired. Today, visitors can still see remnants of this magnificent structure at its original location in Bodrum, Turkey, where ongoing restoration work intends to preserve what remains of this ancient wonder.
Temple Of Artemis
The Temple of Artemis was in Ephesus (now modern-day Selçuk, Turkey). The city originally dedicated it to the Greek goddess Artemis, who the residents worshipped as a protector of women and fertility. First, an original plot of land and structured was destroyed by a flood around the 7th century BCE. The second, grander, temple's construction began in the 6th century BCE, during the reign of King Croesus. An arsonist destroyed this second temple, but it was rebuilt on a grander scale by the Ephesians in 323 BCE (Alexander The Great offered to finance it, but they refused because "one god should not build a temple for another"). The new temple featured over 120 marble columns and stood at the height of 60 feet.
The Temple of Artemis was not only an architectural marvel but also served as an important religious center. Pilgrims from all over Greece would come to worship at the temple and offer gifts to Artemis. The temple housed many valuable treasures, including gold and silver statues. Unfortunately, despite its grandeur and religious significance, the Temple of Artemis suffered continued instances of destruction and was ultimately destroyed by invading Goths in 268 CE. Today, little remains of the Temple of Artemis except for a few scattered ruins and some reconstructed columns, which were rediscovered in 1869 by archaelogists.
Lighthouse Of Alexandria
The Lighthouse of Alexandria, also known as the Pharos of Alexandria, was a tower built in Alexandria, Egypt, during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus in the 3rd century BC. It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and stood as a symbol of engineering and architectural excellence for centuries.
Engineers constructed the lighthouse on the island of Pharos at the entrance to Alexandria's harbor. The architect Sostratus designed it with three tiers: a square bottom tier, an octagonal middle tier, and a cylindrical top tier that housed the beacon fire. The lighthouse measured approximately 330 feet in height, and limestone blocks were the bulk of its material.
The lighthouse's purpose was to guide ships into Alexandria's busy harbor safely. Its light could be seen from over 30 miles away (some claims even suggest as far as 100 miles) and served as a navigational aid for sailors traveling along Egypt's Mediterranean coast. At night, the lighthouse's beacon fire burned continuously using wood or other combustible materials until daylight, when mirrors would reflect sunlight. The mirrors comprised polished metal plates reflecting sunlight onto a single point, creating an intense beam visible for miles.
Over time, earthquakes damaged the structure, and the locals eventually dismantled it between AD 956 and 1323. Today, only ruins remain at the original location on Pharos Island, a discovery made by French archaeologists who conducted an underwater expedition in 1994 . Despite its destruction, the Lighthouse of Alexandria remains an iconic symbol of ancient engineering excellence. Its innovative design set new standards for lighthouses worldwide, inspiring countless imitations throughout history.
Colossus of Rhodes
The Colossus of Rhodes was a gigantic statue of the Greek god Helios, erected in the city of Rhodes by Chares of Lindos in 280 BC. It stood at the entrance to the harbor and was considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The statue was made from bronze and iron and stood over 108 feet tall. It took 12 years to build, and Chares' apprentices completed it after his death. The statue depicted Helios standing with one foot on each side of the harbor entrance, holding a torch in one hand and a spear in the other.
An earthquake destroyed the Colussus in 226 BC, only 54 years after its construction. The statue fell into pieces and remained lying on the ground for over 800 years before being melted for scrap metal by Arab invaders in AD 653. Despite its relatively short lifespan, the Colossus significantly impacted ancient Greece. It symbolized victory against foreign enemies and helped establish Rhodes as a core center of trade and culture.Today, there are few physical remnants of the Colossus left on Rhodes. However, its legacy lives on through literature, art, and popular culture. Many writers have referenced the statue, including Shakespeare, who mentions it in "Julius Caesar." It has also inspired numerous artistic depictions, such as J.M.W Turner's and Salvador Dali's paintings.
The Great Pyramid Of Giza
The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the world's most iconic and impressive structures. Located on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, Egyptians built this pyramid over 4,500 years ago during the reign of Pharaoh Khufu. The pyramid stands at an impressive height of 481 feet and consists of over 2 million stone blocks, each weighing between 2 to 15 tons. The pyramid's base covers an area of around 13 acres and is aligned perfectly with the cardinal points.
The construction techniques used in building this pyramid are still a slight mystery to modern engineers. Theories suggest that laborers used ramps and rollers to transport the massive stones from quarries miles away. It is also likely that skilled workers used copper chisels and hammers to shape and cut these stones before transporting them for assembly.
Inside the pyramid lies a complex network of chambers and passages. The main chamber contains a granite sarcophagus believed to have held the remains of Pharaoh Khufu. Surrounding this chamber are smaller rooms where mourners placed offerings for the deceased Pharaoh's journey into the afterlife. The Great Pyramid has existed through natural disasters, wars, and human neglect for thousands of years. Despite its age, its grandeur and mystery continue to captivate people worldwide. Today, visitors can explore the pyramid's interior and exterior through guided tours. The site also features other pyramids and ancient tombs that provide insight into daily life in ancient Egypt.
These wonders captivate our imaginations because they testify to our ancestors' ingenuity, and the surviving monuments continue to bring people together to marvel in much the same way they did thousands of years ago. Travelers and historians from all walks of life, political backgrounds, and cultures can unite under the shared sense of wonder that these legends provoke. During the conflicts of this era, we can only hope to leave behind similarly inspiring artifacts and creations.