The seven wonders of the ancient world were a collection of outstanding works of architecture and art from the Middle East, North Africa, and southern Europe.
A number of ancient and medieval writers from Europe and the Middle East argued and described what is now known as the world’s seven “wonders” (not all writers used the term “wonder” to describe them). Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian who lived from 484 to 425 B.C., was one of the first to discuss them, and while his writings on the wonders did not survive, they were mentioned in later publications.
The wonders that should be included on the list have been disputed for millennia, with many authors recommending alternative locations. The current list “only became set in the Renaissance,” according to archaeologists Peter Clayton and Martin Price in their book “The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” (Routledge, 1988).
THE GREAT PYRAMID AT GIZA, EGYPT
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest ancient wonder on the list, as well as the only one that still stands today. It was built over 4,600 years ago as a mausoleum for the ancient Egyptian king Khufu and was the world’s highest structure until Lincoln Cathedral’s central tower in England was completed in 1311.
The Great Pyramid was originally 481 feet (147 meters) tall, but due to the loss of some of its stones, it now stands 455 feet (139 meters) tall. The interior of the pyramid features a network of tunnels that lead to a “great gallery” that ascends to a room with an empty sarcophagus, known as the “king’s chamber.”
Furthermore, the tunnels in the Great Pyramid connect to two further chambers, one of which is frequently referred to as the “queen’s chamber” (though it did not likely house a queen) and the other being a subterranean chamber lying beneath the pyramid. The purpose of these two compartments is debatable. Scientists scanning the pyramid in 2017 discovered a massive vacuum above the grand gallery, which could hold one or more chambers.
THE HANGING GARDENS OF BABYLON, IRAQ
According to legend, the sixth-century B.C. Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II incorporated a massive maze of waterfalls and dense vegetation into his palace for his wife, Amytis of Media, who missed her lush homeland of Persia. Archaeologists are still debating whether the garden ever existed.
Several ancient writers described the gardens. “The entrance to the garden sloped like a hillside, and the various portions of the edifice rose from one another layer on tier, the aspect of the entire like that of a theatre,” said the first century B.C. Greek historian Diodorus Siculus.
Archaeological excavations at Babylon, which is located 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Baghdad in modern-day Iraq, have not yielded a location that can be conclusively recognized as the Hanging Gardens. Furthermore, there are no extant Babylonian records that describe them. According to one opinion, Diodorus Siculus and other ancient historians got the site wrong, and the gardens were built at Nineveh, near modern-day Mosul in northern Iraq.
THE STATUE OF ZEUS AT OLYMPIA, GREECE
The sitting image of Greece’s principal Olympic deity was 40 feet tall when it was built around 450 B.C. (12 m). It was built primarily of ivory by the sculptor Phidias and “showed Zeus seated but almost touching the roof with his head, thus giving the impression that if Zeus arose and stood erect he would unroof the temple,” according to the ancient Greek writer Strabo, who lived from around 64 B.C. to A.D. 24.
Around A.D. 40, the Roman emperor Caligula attempted to steal it. Caligula ordered that the statue of Zeus, as well as other prominent god statues, be “brought from Greece, in order to remove their heads and replace his [Caligula’s] own in their place,” according to Suetonius, who lived between A.D. 69 and 122. Caligula, however, was slain before his commands could be carried out.
It is unclear when the statue was demolished. According to historical records, Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D., and old Graeco-Roman faiths were being suppressed. It’s possible that it was destroyed during this time period.
THE TEMPLE OF ARTEMIS AT EPHESUS, TURKEY
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was built in 550 B.C. by Croesus, a Lydian ruler, and was acclaimed by ancient historians for its beauty. Previously, a smaller temple to Artemis, a goddess associated with animals and hunting, existed at Ephesus, but Croesus, who had recently conquered the area, greatly enlarged it, historian Michael Immendörfer wrote in his book “Ephesians and Artemis: The Cult of the Great Goddess of Ephesus as the Epistle’s Context” (Mohr Siebeck, 2017).
It was allegedly set on fire in 356 B.C. by a man named Herostratus who sought renown. It’s debatable whether Herostratus actually torched the temple, Immendörfer noted, noting that people might have been looking for a scapegoat since they didn’t want to think that a lightning bolt could have destroyed the goddess’s temple. In any case, the temple was reconstructed.
According to Immendörfer, the temple was devastated by an earthquake in A.D. 262 and robbed by the Goths – a group of Germanic people who most likely originated in Scandinavia. Whatever remained of the temple appears to have been abandoned or demolished about the fifth century A.D., as Christian sources describe the temple’s demise in this period.
THE MAUSOLEUM AT HALICARNASSUS, TURKEY
This tomb, built for Mausolus, a satrap of Caria in northern Anatolia who died in 353 B.C., left an indelible impression on ancient writers and gave rise to the term “mausoleum.” Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23–79) said that the building came about because a group of the best sculptors at the period — Scopas, Bryaxis, Timotheus, and Leochares — collaborated on the project despite the fact that they were rivals.
When Mausolus’ wife, Artemisia, died around 350 B.C., the mausoleum was still unfinished, and it was unclear whether the sculptors would be paid in the future. Despite this, the team persisted. “They did not, however, abandon their labor until it was finished, considering that it was both a legacy of their own reputation and of the sculptor’s art,” Pliny wrote.
Pliny described the structure as 140 feet (43 meters) tall, with a pyramid-shaped base and 63 columns at the top. The mausoleum’s remains can still be seen today, however, they are in ruins due to the passage of time and the reuse of stone for other buildings, which has progressively led the mausoleum to fall apart.
THE COLOSSUS OF RHODES, GREECE
The Colossus of Rhodes, a massive statue of the Greek sun god Helios, was built approximately 280 B.C. on Rhodes, an island off the coast of modern-day Turkey, and collapsed following an earthquake in 226 B.C. Nothing of the colossus exists now, and the actual location and height of the colossus are debatable among experts.
The statue itself was possibly 110 feet (34 meters) tall and stood atop a three-tiered column around 50 feet (15 meters) tall. Robert Kebric, a retired history professor at the University of Louisville, wrote in the Athens Journal of Humanities and Art in 2019. After analyzing descriptions by ancient writers, Kebric calculated that it would have a total height of 160 feet (49 m).
While some modern-day creative depictions have the monument straddling Rhodes’ bay, Kebric claimed that a more plausible placement was on the summit of the island’s capital city’s acropolis. Kebric reported that there were a number of temples and religious monuments in that location at the time.
THE LIGHTHOUSE OF ALEXANDRIA, GREECE
The lighthouse of Alexandria led ships into Alexandria, Egypt, one of the major ports in the ancient world, under the orders of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, who reigned from roughly 285 to 246 B.C. It was constructed on the island of Pharos, which is located at the entrance to Alexandria’s harbor. A causeway was built to connect the island to the mainland. The lighthouse featured a mirror that reflected the sun’s rays during the day, and a fire was lit at night and other times when it was essential.
The lighthouse’s height has been estimated to be roughly 400 feet (122 m). The lighthouse was in use throughout the Middle Ages, but it collapsed in the mid-14th century, according to Doris Behrens-Abouseif, a professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, in a 2006 paper published in the journal Muqarnas. Damage from earthquakes and coastal erosion contributed to its collapse, despite efforts to repair the damage throughout the Middle Ages.
What’s left of the lighthouse, as well as a major chunk of ancient Alexandria, are now submerged. Archaeologists uncovered the lighthouse’s remains in 1994, and they are still being studied.
Information Source: Live Science