The incredible works of art and architecture are known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World serve as a testament to human creativity, imagination, and pure hard labor. They are, nevertheless, reminders of humanity’s ability for dissension, destruction, and possibly embellishment. When ancient writers established a list of seven wonders, it sparked discussion about which achievements deserved to be included.
The initial list derives from a 225 B.C. book by Philo of Byzantium. On The Seven Wonders is a book about the seven wonders of the world. All but one of the wonders were eventually destroyed when human hands joined forces with natural forces. In addition, it’s probable that at least one of the wonders did not exist at all. Despite this, all seven continue to inspire and be celebrated as amazing examples of Earth’s early civilizations’ inventiveness and talent.
The 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 more than 2m 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. The nearly symmetrical Egyptian pyramids were constructed without the use of modern tools or surveying technology, which is incredible.
What method did the Egyptians use to 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.
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II, according to ancient Greek authors, erected the Hanging Gardens of Babylon near the Euphrates River in modern-day Iraq 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 with theater-style steps. The king is said to have erected the colossal 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 to the gardens has been found in Babylonian cuneiform inscriptions. As a result, most modern researchers assume that the existence of the gardens was based on a well-known but yet mythical story.
The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Around the mid-fifth century B.C., the famous statue of Zeus, the king of the gods in Greek mythology, was carved by the Athenian sculptor Phidias and completed and set in the temple of Zeus at Olympia, the location of the ancient Olympics. The god of thunder was shown sitting 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 held up the thrones’ armrests.
Zeus’ statue was lavishly adorned with gold and ivory. It was so tall, at 40 feet, that its head almost touched the top of the temple. After the sculptor Phidias sought Zeus for a sign of his approval after finishing the statue, the temple was struck by lightning, according to tradition. Before Christian monks 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.
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
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-in 550 B.C. 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, a Cretan architect, and his son Metagenes and embellished by some of the world’s most famous artists. According to mythology, the building burned down on July 21st, 356 B.C., the same night that Alexander the Great was born. It was set ablaze by Herostratus, a Greek citizen who said 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 partly destroyed by the Ostrogoths in A.D. 262, and archeologists didn’t find the first ruins of the temple’s columns until the 1860s, at the mouth of the Cayster River.
Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
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. It’s possible that the building’s intricate design, which consists of three rectangular sections, was an attempt to bring together Lycian, Greek, and Egyptian architectural styles. A 60-foot base of steps was followed by 36 Ionic columns in the middle section 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
In the third century B.C., the Rhodians constructed the Colossus of Rhodes, a massive bronze sculpture of the sun god Helios that took 12 years to complete. 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 was designed by the artist Chares and stood 100 feet tall, making it 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.
Lighthouse of Alexandria
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 be anywhere between 200 and 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 unearthed near the Nile’s bottom.