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Seven Wonders of the Ancient World 

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Great Pyramid of Giza






The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World were:

  1. the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
  2. the Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Greece
  4. the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  5. the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. the Colossus of Rhodes
  7. the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Egypt

The Seven Wonders were first defined as themata (Greek for 'things to be seen' which, in today's common English, we would phrase as 'must-sees') by Philo of Byzantium in 225 BCE, in his work On The Seven Wonders. Other writers on the Seven Wonders include Herodotus, Callimachus of Cyrene, and Antipater of Sidon. Of the original seven, only the Great Pyramid exists today


Nina at the Norwegian bokmål language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
Kheops-Pyramid
The Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed between 2584 and 2561 BCE for the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (known in Greek as 'Cheops') and was the tallest manmade structure in the world for almost 4,000 years. Excavations of the interior of the pyramid were only initiated in earnest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries CE and so the intricacies of the interior which so intrigue modern people were unknown to the ancient writers. It was the structure itself with its perfect symmetry and imposing height which impressed ancient visitors.

Mark, J. J. (2009, September 02). The Seven Wonders. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/The_Seven_Wonders/






Hanging Gardens of Babylon





The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, if they existed as described, were built by Nebuchadnezzar II between 605-562 BCE as a gift to his wife. They are described by the ancient writer Diodorus Siculus as being self-watering planes of exotic flora and fauna reaching a height of over 75 feet (23 m) through a series of climbing terraces. Diodorus wrote that Nebuchadnezzar's wife, Amtis of Media, missed the mountains and flowers of her homeland and so the king commanded that a mountain be created for her in Babylon. The controversy over whether the gardens existed comes from the fact that they are nowhere mentioned in Babylonian history and that Herodotus, 'the Father of History', makes no mention of them in his descriptions of Babylon. There are many other ancient facts, figures, and places Herodotus fails to mention, however, or has been shown to be wrong about. Diodorus, Philo, and the historian Strabo all claim the gardens existed. They were destroyed by an earthquake sometime after the 1st century CE.

Mark, J. J. (2009, September 02). The Seven Wonders. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/The_Seven_Wonders/Hanging_Gardens_of_Babylon
Assyrian_Relief_of_the_Banquet_of_Ashurbanipal_From_Nineveh_Gypsum_N_Palace_British_Museum_01Allan Gluck, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Assyrian Relief of the Banquet of Ashurbanipal From Nineveh N Palace, Gypsum, British Museum. Ashurbanipal reclines on a banqueting couch beneath an arbor of vines, facing his queen, shown seated on a throne. His sword, quiver, and bow lie on a table at right, signaling his military prowess. Attendants fan the royal couple while musicians play in the background. In a gruesome detail, the severed head of the Elamite king Teumman, killed in Battle against Ashurbanipal's army eight years earlier, hangs from a tree branch at left - another reminder of the Assyrian king's ruthless pursuit of power and empire. Ashurbanipal and his queen Libbali-sharrat depicted dining. The severed head of Elamite King Teumman is hanging in a tree to the left.[1] An Egyptian necklace hangs from the curved angle of the couch, probable symbol of his conquests in Egypt.[2] A bow with a quiver are exposed on the table, probable symbol of his conquest in Elam.[2] This relief is associated with another fragment showing the humiliation of an Elamite king forced to serve food to Ashurbanipal.[2]British Museum BM 124920.[3]








Statue of Zeus at Olympia







The Statue of Zeus at Olympia was created by the great Greek sculptor Phidias (known as the finest sculptor of the ancient world in the 5th century BCE, he also worked on the Parthenon and the statue of Athena there in Athens). The statue depicted the god Zeus seated on his throne, his skin of ivory and robes of hammered gold, and was 40 feet (12 m) tall, designed to inspire awe in the worshippers who came to the Temple of Zeus at Olympia. Not everyone was awestruck by the statue, however. Strabo reports:

Although the temple itself is very large, the sculptor is criticized for not having appreciated the correct proportions. He has shown Zeus seated, but with the head almost touching the ceiling, so that we have the impression that if Zeus moved to stand up he would unroof the temple. (Seven Wonders)

The Temple at Olympia fell into ruin after the rise of Christianity and the ban on the Olympic Games as 'pagan rites'. The statue was carried off to Constantinople where it was later destroyed, sometime in either the 5th or 6th centuries CE, by an earthquake.

Quincy, D. (2016, July 28). Statue of Zeus, Olympia. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/image/5417/


Original image by de Quincy. Uploaded by Mark Cartwright, published on 28 July 2016 under the following license: Public Domain. This item is in the public domain, and can be used, copied, and modified without any restrictions. 5417






Temple of Artemis at Ephesus





model of the temple of artemis

Mark, J. J. (2009, September 02). The Seven Wonders. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/The_Seven_Wonders/
The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (Ephesos), a Greek colony in Asia Minor, took over 120 years to build and only one night to destroy. Completed in 550 BCE, the temple was 425 feet (about 129 m) long, 225 feet (almost 69 m) wide, supported by 127 60-foot (about 18 m) high columns. Sponsored by the wealthy King Croesus of Lydia, who spared no expense in anything he did (according to Herodotus, among others) the temple was so magnificent that every account of it is written with the same tone of awe and each agrees with the other that this was among the most amazing structures ever raised by humans. On July 21, 356 BCE a man named Herostratus set fire to the temple in order, as he said, to achieve lasting fame by forever being associated with the destruction of something so beautiful. The Ephesians decreed that his name should never be recorded nor remembered, but Strabo set it down as a point of interest in the history of the temple. On the same night the temple burned, Alexander the Great was born and, later, offered to rebuild the ruined temple, but the Ephesians refused his generosity. It was rebuilt on a less grand scale after Alexander's death but was destroyed by the invasion of the Goths. Rebuilt again, it was finally destroyed utterly by a Christian mob lead by Saint John Chrysostom in 401 CE.








Mausoleum at Halicarnassus





The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus was the tomb of the Persian Satrap Mausolus, built c. 351 BCE. Mausolus chose Halicarnassus as his capital city, and he and his beloved wife Artemisia went to great lengths to create a city whose beauty would be unmatched in the world. Mausolus died in 353 BCE, and Artemisia wished to create a final resting place worthy of such a great king. Artemisia died two years after Mausolus and her ashes were entombed with his in the mausoleum (Pliny the Elder records that the craftsmen continued work on the structure after her death, both as a tribute to their patroness and knowing the work would bring them lasting fame). The tomb was 135 feet (41 m) tall and ornately decorated with fine sculpture. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and lay in ruin for hundreds of years until, in 1494 CE, it was completely dismantled and used by the Knights of St. John of Malta in the building of their castle at Bodrum (where the ancient stones can still be seen today). It is from the tomb of Mausolus that the English word 'mausoleum' is derived.
Lion from the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus








Colossus of Rhodes





The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the god Helios (the patron god of the island of Rhodes) constructed between 292 and 280 BCE. It stood over 110 feet (just over 33 m) high, overlooking the harbor of Rhodes and, despite fanciful depictions to the contrary, stood with its legs together on a base (much like the Statue of Liberty in the harbor off New York City in the United States of America, which is modeled on the Colossus) and did not straddle the harbour. The statue was commissioned after the defeat of the invading army of Demetrius in 304 BCE. Demetrius left behind much of his siege equipment and weaponry, and this was sold by the Rhodians for 300 talents (approximately 360 million US dollars) which money they used to build the Colossus. The statue stood for only 56 years before it was destroyed by an earthquake in 226 BCE. It lay in impressive ruin for over 800 years, according to Strabo, and was still a tourist attraction. Pliny the Elder claims that the fingers of the Colossus were larger than most statues of his day. According to the historian Theophanes, the bronze ruins were eventually sold to “a Jewish merchant of Edessa” around 654 CE who carried them away on 900 camels to be melted down.
Colossus of Rhodes








Lighthouse of Alexandria





The Lighthouse at Alexandria, built on the island of Pharos, stood close to 440 feet (134 m) in height and was commissioned by Ptolemy I Soter. Construction was completed sometime around 280 BCE. The lighthouse was the third tallest human-made structure in the world (after the pyramids), and its light (a mirror which reflected the sun's rays by day and a fire by night) could be seen as far as 35 miles out to sea. The structure rose from a square base to a middle octagonal section up to a circular top and those who saw it in its glory reported that words were inadequate to describe its beauty. The lighthouse was badly damaged in an earthquake in 956 CE, again in 1303 CE and 1323 CE and, by the year 1480 CE, it was gone. The Egyptian fort Quaitbey now stands on the site of the Pharos, built with some of the stones from the ruins of the lighthouse.
Light house at Alexandria








  1. Resources
  2. Lesson Plans
  3. Test Your Knowledge

Mark, J. J. (2009, September 02). The Seven Wonders. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.worldhistory.org/The_Seven_Wonders/

Bibliography

Durant, W. The Life of Greece. Simon & Schuster, 1954. 

Jordan, P. Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Longman, 2002. 

Nagle, D. B. The Ancient World. Pearson, 2009. 

Written by Joshua J. Mark, published on 02 September 2009 under the following license: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon this content non-commercially, as long as they credit the author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Please note that content linked from this page may have different licensing terms.